While Ohio lawmakers are considering a bill that would require most schools to start after Labor Day, school districts around the area are thinking about how this change would affect their plans.
House Bill 549 would require public and chartered nonpublic schools to open for instruction after Labor Day, if passed. The bill does not apply to any school that operates on a year-round basis.
Boardman Local Schools Superintendent Timothy Saxton said Boardman’s first day of school was traditionally after Labor Day. The move to standardize Ohio district start dates would be an advantage for Boardman schools when it comes to state testing.
“The dates for state testing are the same for all districts, regardless of their start date. We cannot start in mid-August like other districts across the state, with classroom temperatures often over 90 degrees in August, it wouldn’t be conducive to effective student learning,” Saxton said.
If the measure passed, schools that still wish to open before Labor Day can do so, but they would need to hold a public hearing to vote on the matter.
Schools moving their start dates back to align with legislation would also need to approve the change at board meetings.
A spokesperson for Mahoning County Educational Service Center (MCESC) said if the bill passed, many schools would need to communicate with parents and unions to establish new calendars and determine when break periods would begin and end.
“We would have to approve the change at the appropriate board meeting. After approval, our communications coordinator would use various communication channels to inform parents and the community,” Saxton said.
Schools that responded to questions about the proposed legislation came back with mixed responses. Some schools start late because of their students’ involvement with 4H at the Canfield Fair; others said they wouldn’t know where to add the extra days on their calendars.
Many educators responded by saying getting enough academic time for students — who may be preparing for SATs and ACTs alongside their state testing — was their most important priority.
A survey completed by Neil Newhouse and Public Opinion Strategies of 800 Ohio registered voters in 2017 found that by nearly 2 to 1, Ohioans believed all K-12 public schools should start on the same date, and 59 percent of voters preferred a start date after Labor Day.
House Bill 549 was referred to the Education and Career Readiness Committee on March 30.