A divided Cobb County school board narrowly approved new school calendars with earlier start dates and more breaks during the school year, reviving an historically nettlesome issue parents and school officials.
The board voted 4-3 Thursday to begin school on Aug. 4, 2014 — a week earlier — and to add a fall break the week of Sept. 15, 2014. The earlier start will be repeated in the 2015-16 school year, when students will return to school Aug. 3 for seven weeks of class before another fall break. Also in 2015-16, a weeklong break will be added in February.
The calendar is 89 days the first semester and 91 days the second semester in both years.
The structure of the school year has been a contentious issue for the 106,000-student district the last few years. Some board members prefer what is called a “balanced” calendar, which includes a fall and winter break. Others prefer a more traditional school calendar with a longer summer.
This year, students in Cobb don’t have a fall break but they are off Oct. 3-4 because of budget cuts which resulted in staff furlough days.
Several factors are considered when building a school calendar, said Lisa Miller, a Smyrna parent who was on the calendar committee last year. The main focus, she said, is what’s best for students and teachers. Miller was pleased with how the board handled the issue this year.
The calendars approved this week reflect much of the feedback committee members gathered from parents, teachers and community members, she said.
Summer construction, a calendar that gets graduations done by a certain date, and heating and cooling costs are some of the issues considered. Some parents told the committee that high school fund raising efforts can be harmed by a fall break, which can mean a loss in football game concessions for back to back weekends, Miller said.
Deborah Davis Carroll wishes school officials had put fall and winter breaks in both calendars. Her daughter is a junior in the math and science magnet program at Kennesaw Mountain High School. Her other daughter is a sophomore at Georgia Tech.
“Both my kids did better when they had a little more time off in the school year because their classes were so intense,” she said. “The breaks gave them a chance to catch their breath.”