Students in Jackson County went back to school last week, leaving many parents wondering why so early, especially during the heat of August.
Crystal D. Kilcrease Stelzner said her child, a second-grader, gets off the school bus drenching in sweat.
“If school started later, more towards fall season, we as parents wouldn’t have to worry as much about heat strokes or dehydration,” said Stelzner.
Many parents believe school should start after Labor Day, in September.
“We started after Labor Day when I was in school, and I think it should still be that way,” said Linda McKee.
Currently, public schools in Alabama are required to have 180 days of student instruction or the hourly equivalent of 1,080 hours each year.
In 2012, Alabama’s Legislature passed a bill mandating that school could not start earlier than the Monday two weeks before Labor Day and last no longer than the Friday immediately before Memorial Day. The legislature failed to renew the measure in 2015, and school systems reverted to earlier start dates.
This year, almost all public school systems in Alabama started last week. Jefferson County starts on Aug. 21 while Pike Road City starts on Aug. 21.
Jackson County Superintendent Kevin Dukes said not only do students have to get 180 days, but nine-month employees have to get seven additional days.
He said his goal is to be done on the Friday before Memorial Day in May, but to do that school must start early. Either that, or cut into days off, such as the Christmas break or Thanksgiving, added Dukes.
Scottsboro City Schools Superintendent Dr. Jay Reyes concurred, saying by Labor Day students will already have 18 days.
“If we started after Labor Day, where are we going to make up those 18 days,” said Reyes.
Reyes said most people don’t understand that when school started after Labor Day years ago, students didn’t have to go as many days as now.
“If we had to add those 18 days back by starting after Labor Day, we would finish around the third week of June,” said Reyes. “Either way, we are trading the front end for the back end.”
The county school system will get a fall break Oct. 14-18. The city system doesn’t have a fall break but will get a week off during Thanksgiving in November.
Still, many people still believe it’s too hot, starting in early August.
“It is way too hot,” said Tonia Jones. “Buses have no air conditioners.”
Dukes said he tells bus drivers not to load students until it’s time to go.
At the end of the day, both superintendents realize not everyone is going to be pleased.
“Two years ago, we started on Aug. 14,” said Dukes. “People didn’t like that. There is no way everyone is going to be happy.”
Nicole Swearengin Dovers is good, though. She said when she was in school, and it started in mid-August, it was fine.
“The start date this year was fine with us,” said Dovers. “My children enjoy school and seeing their friends daily.”