(QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Some school districts starting early in North Carolina are technically breaking the law, but state lawmakers don’t seem to be willing to do anything about it, and Queen City News found out the law itself really doesn’t have any enforcement power.
Kannapolis City Schools returned to class Wednesday, and students in Cabarrus County Schools go back this Thursday.
“What are some of the things that you do to manage that?” asked an administrator in Cabarrus County Schools to teachers during a recent conference before school started.
Teachers don’t just teach. They learn too.
“All of these sessions are geared towards what we can do to be better educators in the classroom,” said Abby Pageles, a first-year teacher at Rocky River Elementary School.
Every year, Cabarrus County teachers go back to class before their students, so their summer doesn’t last as long.
“When the school year ends, I take a break. I kind of need that break,” said Jamie Clark, a 5th grade teacher at Rocky River Elementary School.
This year, teachers and students had the shortest summer ever.
“That’s what you did this summer is mostly train the puppy?” asked Queen City News Anchor Robin Kanady to two students who are brothers.
“Yeah, we’re trying but it’s very hard because he’s very active,” answered Cooper Banks, a third grader at Fred L. Wilson Elementary School in Kannapolis City Schools.
“He goes crazy,” said Lincoln Banks, Cooper’s brother, referring to the family’s new puppy.
No matter the memories, they got sandwiched in between the start of a new school calendar.
“I caught a big fish on my summer fishing trip, so I sent them [her students] all a picture to let them know what I was doing,” said Pageles.
QCN did the math, first looking at the summer of 2022 for Cabarrus County Schools.
It was 80 days long, counting weekends, compared with this past summer.
It was only 62 days long. That’s 18 fewer days of summer.
“Did the summer feel shorter to you?” Kanady asked a parent.
“Yeah, it does, it definitely felt shorter, but we had a lot of fun,” said Leslie Jenkins, a Cabarrus County Schools parent.
Cabarrus County and some other districts in our area are switching to a new calendar to more closely line up with the district’s Early College programs and to get in exams for high school students before winter break.
“What’s best for kids is to have the natural split: the semester ends, we go home for break, come back, start the new semester,” said Dr. John Kopicki, Superintendent for Cabarrus County Schools.
Students in Cabarrus County Schools will be getting out of school before Memorial Day.
“It was like June 1st hit and there was a mental switch that was like, ‘I should not be in school, I am done,” said Pageles, referring to students last school year.
The new calendar also has 3rd through 5th graders taking their end-of-grade tests before the long Memorial Day weekend and not having to return until August.
“People are hot, they’re tired, they’re ready to be out for summer, so I think it makes more sense from that perspective,” said Richie Wells, Principal of Irvin Elementary School.
But state law says school districts in North Carolina can’t start before the end of August.
“I’m curious to know how the counties are able to disregard that state law,” said a parent to QCN on the last day of school in Cabarrus County last year.
QCN wanted to know too and whether school districts face any penalties for breaking the law.
“The State Board does not have a written policy or procedure or administrative rule that would address what action it can or may take if a local school district does not comply with state calendar laws. The calendar law itself does not provide for any sanction and the State Board and Department of Public Instruction are therefore limited in their enforcement authority and ability to address this issue,” said Allison Schafer, the attorney for the NC Board of Education, in a statement to QCN.
“I really want to see my friends and learn Spanish again,” said Cooper Banks about starting back to school.
No matter when school starts, the number of days in the classroom all adds up.
“We’re all excited about the calendar change,” said Melody Marsh, Principal at Royal Oaks School of the Arts.
“We believe wholeheartedly that it’s best for our students,” said Dr. Kopicki.
While lawmakers in the State House want districts to make their own choices, the State Senate wants the school calendar left the way it is, so it doesn’t seem any legislation will pass to make any changes to the law.
Even though the law doesn’t have any real consequences, school districts can be sued.
That’s what happened in Union County Public Schools, and why leaders there decided not to start school early this year.