State Senate committee recommends later school start dates

Members of a committee studying the school calendar voted unanimously Thursday to adopt recommendations to push the back the start date.

The Senate Study Committee on Evaluating the School Year Calendar of Georgia Public Schools held the final of four meetings at the State Capitol.

The group's recommendations are that school systems cannot start classes until seven to 10 days before Labor Day and must end school on or around June 1.  

"They could set their start dates any time they want after that and they could have their breaks any time they want throughout that calendar.  So, that preserves the local control aspect," explained Committee Chairman Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega.

Local control has been the main concern expressed by those who have attended the study committee meetings this fall, said Gooch.

He and other committee members, however, said their biggest concerns are education and student safety. They worry about the costs and potential risks of having student in class in July and August. Committee members also expressed concerns about the short summer break limiting students' opportunities for employment or internships.

Sen. Gooch also said he would like to see the calendars better align with the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia for those high school students who participate in dual enrollment.  

"I think they should seriously consider having a consistent calendar across the state. That way, all the children in the state, you know, start school at the same time, they leave school at the same time," said Derrick Montgomery who has two sons.   

Montgomery's children attend The Globe Academy in DeKalb County, which started on Aug. 8 this year.

"There's a winter break, Thanksgiving, spring break, and then you also have all the early release dates throughout the year, and if you're a single parent or if you're a household where you've got two working parents, then that leaves them scrambling to find childcare options," said Montgomery. "I just don't think the people that make those decisions are not thinking about working families."

The committee's recommendations are just a starting point and according to Gooch, no lawmakers have drafted any school calendar legislation yet for the upcoming session.

The vote, though, could serve as a warning to local school officials.  

"I think it would help to send a message back to the school boards, 'Hey, we want more involvement in this decision process.  We want more parents involved in the decision making with their kids,'" Gooch said.