School start dates in limbo

Published 10:55 pm Monday, May 14, 2012

With the back-and-forth between the House, Senate and governor now over, local school systems will soon be able to solidify plans for next year’s school calendar.

The Alabama Legislature voted last week to override Gov. Robert Bentley’s veto of a bill that mandates schools begin no earlier than two weeks before Labor Day and end no later than the Friday before Memorial Day.

Republican Rep. Randy Davis of Daphne sponsored the bill and said the plan would extend Alabama’s tourist season and allow the state to collect more revenue. Davis estimated the change would generate up to $22 million in tax revenue because of the amount of time and money people spend at the beach and other attractions. Davis said the extra cash used for hotel rooms and dining out would be good for Alabama.

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Opponents of the bill said there was no guarantee the longer summer season would increase the state’s revenue.

Both Troy City Schools and Pike County Schools will have to change the start date of their already-approved calendars. Both boards of education had agreed on an Aug. 13, 2012 start date. Pike County Schools will also need to adjust the last day of school, currently set at May 30, 2013.

Instead of the previously mandated 180 school days, the new law will allow schools to extend their days and operate 1,080 hours.

Dr. Mark Bazzell said Pike County Schools are already operating close to 1,200 hours, so county schools won’t have to lengthen the daily schedule.

“Based on what I am seeing, we are going to lose five days of instruction to stay within the parameters set,” Bazzell said.

Alabama’s State Superintendent Dr. Thomas Bice will hold a webinar on Thursday for superintendents throughout the state to discuss options and the Education Budget for next school year.

“Right now we are just going to hold off until that time to make any decision,” said Troy City Schools Superintendent Lee Hicks. “This has been difficult for everyone in terms of planning,” Bazzell said. “We are to the point we need to be making personnel decisions, too.”