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Senate Committee says school should start later in Georgia

ATLANTA, Ga. – A Senate Committee charged with looking into the start date of schools in Georgia has recommended a more unified calendar that would call for school to start later.

The Committee — made up of Senators, education leaders and tourism officials — has met three times this year “attempting to look at the benefits of a more unified calendar statewide.”

The Committee found “no evidence to suggest that a more congruent school calendar or a later start date to the school year statewide could have a negative impact on education.”

They recommend “guardrails” be put around school start dates that preserve local control while allowing for consistency across the state. The Committee recommended that school should start no earlier than approximately 7 to 10 days prior to Labor Day in September and end on or about June 1.

According to state law, a school year must contain a minimum of 180 schools days per year. In 2008, the General Assembly passed legislation to provide increased flexibility to local school systems. Currently, nationwide, 13 states impose guidelines on public school calendars, while 37 states allow the school calendar to be a complete district option.

Another of the Committees recommendations included the idea of a longer summer break with fewer breaks throughout the year.

Many in Georgia’s tourism industry support a more uniform calendar. However, the idea of a unified school calendar isn’t popular among everyone.

Matthew Pence with the Professional Association of Georgia Educations (PAGE) told the committee a survey they conducted showed a slight majority of people are against a state-mandated school start date after Labor Day. A large majority was in favor of local school districts retaining control of the calendar. That survey was mainly answered by PAGE members and classroom instructors.

The President of the Georgia Association of Educators, Charlotte Booker, told the committee their organization also supported local control of the calendars with input from the community. The Georgia Parent Teacher Association also supports local control.

Some tourism officials, including representatives from the Atlanta Braves, Six Flags Over Georgia and Stone Mountain Park, told the committee they support a later start date for Georgia schools because their summer work force is made up of students seeking summer work.

Dale Kaetzel with Six Flags Over Georgia told the committee they have to reduce their employment by 58% on August 1st because school starts back.

Michael Dombroski with Stone Mountain Park told the committee over 1,500 of their over 2,000 employees are part time or season jobs held largely by students. Dombroski cited a Pew Research Center study that shows 35% of 16 to 19-year-old individuals had summer jobs in 2017, down from 51.7% in 2000. Dombroski emphasized benefits of youth employment and the skills their student workers develop each summer.

The Committees’ recommendations are not binding. The Committees’ Chair, Steve Gooch, says they will continue to have conversations with school boards and members of the Legislature to see where they go from here.

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