The great debate: When should school start?

When should Arkansas schools start?

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Do you feel like the school year starts earlier and earlier every year? You're not alone.

Long gone are the days of school starting after Labor Day in Central Arkansas. Many people wish things could be different for their kids. But, what is best for kids in this day and age? When should the school year start and end? Should schools move to a year round model? Michele Linch, Executive Director of the Arkansas State Teachers Association, said this conversation is fresh in the minds of teachers across the state.

“There was legislation just this year aimed at changing start and end dates for schools in Central Arkansas, but the legislation never passed,” said Linch.

She said the original school calendar was established based on the agriculture industry and so many people think changes should be considered.

“We’ve got research out there that says children in a low socioeconomic status and children with special needs could benefit from an extended school year,” Linch said.

She said the problem is that what could be better for students, could be worse for teachers. They need time to prepare their classroom for the next school year. They also need time for state mandated professional development.

“An extended break in the summer, of some kind, seems to really work well for most teachers who we speak to,” she said. “The length of that break is really where the debate comes in.”

For students of different ages, the best decision might also be different.

“We have to have schools that meet students at the point of their needs and that's the most important thing to consider,” said Linch. “Those are the conversations districts need to be having with their stakeholders.”

Linch said there is room for things to change. Most districts have a some amount of local control, they just have to make sure they meet state requirements. She said parents can engage with the school board and administration in that district and can form task forces around the issue. The difficulty is that people have different opinions about this issue. THV11 asked viewers on our Facebook page what they thought about when school should start and end and how long summer break should last. Hundreds of  people commented and there were different opinions all across the board.

Lucia Martinez was one person who wrote a comment online. So, THV11 met up with her to hear her thoughts. As a mother of six, she has a unique perspective.

“It would be better to have the year round school schedule and just have breaks throughout the year,” said Martinez.

She said it’s difficult for her kids to retain information after a long summer break. She also said it is hard to find affordable child care programs during the summer.

“There’s not much for them to do,” she said. “I can take them out but it’s kind of expensive to be running around town all summer.”

Two of Martinez’s kids also chimed in with their opinion. They said they would like to go to school all year. One of her daughters said that they don’t get to learn as much over the break and it can be harder to remember things when they finally get back to school.

Kimberly Freidman with the Arkansas Department of Education said state law dictates the window in which schools must start unless the district has a waiver. Some changes would require a change in legislation. She said the school year end date is set by districts.

Districts are required to provide 178 days of student instruction time to comply with the Standards of Accreditation. For more information, people can refer to Ark. Code Ann. 6-10-106 and 6-10-108.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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