For almost 15 years, North Carolina’s rigid school calendar law has led to complaints about its lack of flexibility. Haywood County leaders are asking for change, but aren’t sure they’ll get it.
Enacted in 2004, North Carolina’s school calendar law created a uniform schedule for public schools across the state. The “one size fits all” nature of the scheduling has led to a lot of challenges. “One size fits all is not great,” said Haywood Schools Superintendent Dr. Bill Nolte. “Especially when you have hurricanes and illness that comes through and especially the winter weather.”
Haywood students have lost 26 school days in the last three years to weather, but even without weather-related closings, the current schedule means students have to take first semester exams after winter break. “It’s been difficult for teachers to try to re-teach the material after Christmas to those students,” said Haywood School Board Vice Chairman Jim Harley Francis. “By being able to take those exams before Christmas and get that over with and start the new semester fresh, that also lines up with the college, so those kids that are taking those college courses can go head and start the new semester at the college, instead of having to finish up the previous [high school] semester while trying to start new classes at the college.”
But business and tourism industry leaders want uniformity, and don’t want to see families with kids head back to school earlier than late August. In the past, some legislators have tried to give local school boards more control, with no luck, according to Francis. “The local school board knows the community better, knows the area, so we have a better understanding of what our kids need, when we need to start school,” he said. “That in turn will allow us to do more and be able to accomplish more and offer more stuff to our students.”
Haywood’s legislators support the idea but haven’t filed a bill, because they aren’t optimistic. Franklin Rep. Kevin Corbin has introduced one for Cherokee, Clay, Graham and Macon counties.