Scotland schools could get leeway

By: By Amber Hatten -

LAURINBURG – The Scotland County Schools calendar for the 2017-18 school year could look quite a bit different.

State Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond, filed a bill this week that would give boards of education in Scotland, Anson, Richmond, Rowan and Stanly counties the authority to control the starting and ending dates of their school years.

The bill would overturn North Carolina General Statute 115C-84.2, that states that schools in North Carolina are not allowed to have a start date earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and end date no later than the Friday closest to June 28 (unless a weather related calendar has been approved.)

“Local school boards know best the needs of the local community in regards to when school starts and stops,” said McInnis. “This bill if passed into law will give that authority to the local school boards who operate everyday with the best interest of the children in mind.”

Meredith Bounds, Scotland County Schools spokesperson, said having more calendar flexibility would be huge for the district.

“We are very limited by legislation when we can start and stop and it really puts the district at a disadvantage when the parameters are so tight,” she said. “The vast majority of superintendents in the state have been asking for this. it was brought up in the last general session but there was no action taken on it. Hopefully something will come about this time.”

Prior to the current legislation, school boards had the freedom to set the opening and closing dates of their respective districts and were also able to adopt different school calendars for different schools within the district. In order to protect the state’s tourism revenue along the coast, the school start dates were pushed back to allow for longer summer vacations, according to Bounds.

“The legislation offers some protection for the tourism at the beach,” she said. “If you allow schools to go later in June and start earlier in August it takes away from tourism dollars and people heading to the coast for vacation.”

The law also states that students must have a minimum of 185 days or 1,025 hours of instruction — Scotland bases their school calendar on hours of instruction. The number of days students must attend school would not change, just the flexibility of start and end dates.

“Most districts follow instructional hours because of all the days you have to take — holidays, work days — there aren’t enough days in between those to follow the day requirement,” said Bounds. “Our employees are paid on a calendar of 215 days to meet law requirements and pay schedule it can be difficult.”

The other important change McInnis is proposing is in changing the start and end dates, districts would be required to complete all first semester exams before winter break. With the start and end dates that are currently in place students at Scotland High School and Shaw Academy have to take their first semester exams after they get back from break, which according to Bounds isn’t beneficial to students or teachers.

“We started exams Jan. 13 on this year,” Bounds said. “If we could start school two weeks prior, we could get exams in before winter break. That’s the primary push for the flexibility in the school calendar to make sure we have those exams completed before winter break. It’s better for students and teachers to have all those finished and out of the way and to come back refreshed for a new semester.”

Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.

Bill to give calendars flexibility

By Amber Hatten