Call To ‘Go Rogue’ Highlights CMS Frustration with North Carolina School Calendar Law | DFA 90.7
On Tuesday, two members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board urged the district to defy state law that dictates when the school year can begin and end.
Their remarks highlight a long-standing frustration with North Carolina’s school calendar law – and perhaps signal that life is returning to normal after the pandemic.
The General Assembly passed the law in 2003, with the support of the tourism industry and some parents and teachers. It forces school districts to wait until the end of August to start classes.
Since then, school boards across the state have complained, lobbied, and asked for exemptions from the restrictions. Critics say starting earlier allows schools to give first semester exams before winter break, which is more efficient for students and teachers. And with a growing number of high schools offering college courses, the flexibility would allow K-12 schools to synchronize with higher education.
“Go Rogue” neighborhoods
In 2019, a handful of districts in the Charlotte area simply approved calendars with earlier start dates. They included Iredell-Statesville, Mooresville, Lincoln County, Anson County, and Kannapolis.
When the CMS board discussed its 2022 timeline, Rhonda Cheek took note of this trend.
âI’m not saying CMS should be a thug, because we’re big,â she said before pausing. “Well I’m actually saying we should go thugs because we’re big and if we go thugs what are they going to do? Like what would they actually do? Are they going to come over and, like, slap us? Because , like, my hand is ready. “
Of course, a lot has happened since the Calendar 2019 rebellion. The pandemic closed schools before the end of this year and the General Assembly has set a start date of August 17 for 2020. Lawmakers have said that this was necessary to help the students make up for lost time.
Boen Nutting, spokesperson for Iredell-Statesville Schools, said the state has also tightened the definition of year-round schools, which the ISS and some other districts have cited to justify early opening. This year, the ISS and most other districts in the region will open on August 23, as per state law (CMS will start two days later).
Mooresville schools start August 2
There is one exception: High schools in Mooresville, a district of about 6,000 students in Iredell County, will open on August 2.
âWe certainly think it’s beneficial for the students,â said Director of Communications Tanae McLean. “This is the reason we are doing it, is because we believe it is in the best interests of our students academically.”
She says the district is not defying the law. Instead, he got an exemption based on the timeline he put in place before the 2003 law was passed: âBasically you are grandfathered. You can create a modified schedule. “
Another complication this year is that districts are required to provide about six weeks of summer school, which consumes a large chunk of summer vacation for employees who register and officials who have to plan logistics.
For Mooresville, that means teachers won’t report back for the start of the regular year until a week after summer school ends. But the perks include a fall vacation week in October, a first semester that ends before winter vacation, and a school year that ends May 25.
Efforts to change the law
This year, North Carolina House passed a series of bills that would give scheduling flexibility to some or all of the districts. One specific to Mecklenburg County was adopted by the House but stagnated in the Senate. CMS board member Margaret Marshall said it seems like a matter of priorities.
“We want to start earlier,” she said, “but the Senate, I think, is concerned about the vacation industry.”
The office of Senate Leader Phil Berger responded to a question about the flexibility of the schedule by saying that leaders remain open. But, the statement quickly notes, “the Senate has long argued that students and teachers should have structured summer vacations and the consistency that comes with start and end dates set in law.”
CMS going to rebel?
Cheek’s call to be a thug was spoken lightly, but she said she was serious.
“We have to think about being bold,” she told her colleagues. “I totally agree. Let’s move this timeline, start on the 20th, somewhere around there, about a week and a half earlier.”
CMS board member Sean Strain said he wanted to follow up on Cheek’s suggestion to go rogue: âDo it in a very decisive, public and transparent manner, and say we’re doing it in the best interests of our children. “
Strain and Cheek are the two Republican members of the board. But if they perhaps send a public message to their GOP counterparts in Raleigh, the district is unlikely to approve a “rogue” schedule at its next meeting.
On Monday, CMS will begin asking families and employees for their preference over two proposed timelines for 2022-2023. Both begin classes on August 29.