When should summer end for students in Georgia schools and who should decide, the state Legislature or local boards of education?
Photo: AJC File
Photo: AJC File

Cherokee parents and staff to state: Hands off our summer break

The emerging debate over summer break in Georgia heats up with the Cherokee County school board surveying its parents and staff.

The verdict: An overwhelming preference to keep Cherokee’s current school calendar and local control of it. 

A state Senate study committee has formed to study when schools reopen after summer break under the rationale that Georgia tourism would be helped by mandating a later and uniform starting date for districts statewide. And, argue the proponents of a later starting date, when Georgia tourism benefits, so do state coffers.

In 2005, Georgia lawmakers attempted to push back the resumption of school after complaints from the travel industry they were losing both visitors and staff because of the surge in earlier starting dates.

Many Georgia schools now resume the first or second week of August. Better, said the industry, to start up in late August or after Labor Day.

But local control won out in that first round, with both the governor and state school superintendent at the time opposing legislative intrusion into the setting of school calendars.

Now, districts are bracing for another round. Cherokee is wasting no time gathering evidence in favor of preserving local control over school schedules.

According to Cherokee County Schools:

The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday voiced its support of parents and employees, who overwhelmingly voted in a recent survey to keep the current school calendar – and local control of it. 

In response to widespread media coverage of the formation of a Senate Study Committee to mandate a school start date after Labor Day for all Georgia public schools, the CCSD Office of Communications over the past week conducted a brief survey of parents, employees and the School Board’s Student Delegates.

The survey resulted in 8,305 responses from parents and 2,674 responses from employees. 

The overwhelming majority – 80 percent parents, 86 percent of employees and 83 percent of Student Delegates – voted against a mandated start after Labor Day. The groups cited the September and February break as the most important features of CCSD’s balanced calendar, which has been in place for more than 15 years. 

Their responses were even stronger when asked which elected body should determine school calendars, with 92 percent of parents, 95 percent of employees and 83 percent of Student Delegates, opting in favor of local schools boards retaining that role. The full results of the survey are posted online here.

 “We appreciate our community sharing their opinions,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “Neither I nor the school board have any plans to change our calendar; we wanted to gather your input so the state Legislature would know where we stand when it considers this issue. It’s clear that our community supports local control and keeping our school calendar.” 

School board Chair Kyla Cromer pointed out the Senate Study Committee is stacked with members who have ties to tourism, adding that she hopes the Legislature will put aside special interest groups’ desires and focus on what’s best for students and their families.

The student delegates, who were invited to share comments, noted that the current calendar benefits their academic success and emotional well-being, citing the regular breaks, the ability to take finals before the winter holidays, and the month-long head start on preparing for Advanced Placement (AP) exams to earn college credit.

Ms. Cromer also reported the state legislators who represent Cherokee County all have said they will not support a State-mandated calendar. The survey results will be shared with the local Legislative Delegation, as well as with the Senate Study Committee’s leadership.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.