Palm Beach County School Board votes down early school start date

Students in Palm Beach County can breathe easy — their summer vacations, at least for now, won't be cut a week short.

The Palm Beach County School Board Wednesday rejected the proposed 2013-14 school calendar that would scoot up the start of the school year by one week.

The plan called for the first day of school to be Aug. 14, nearly a week earlier than this year.

"If you start a week later, the number of days in first semester and second semester are very lopsided," said district spokesperson Nat Harrington. "It's not fair to cram a lot of information in the first semester."

But some members of the School Board expressed concern over the early start date.

"The three other districts surrounding us start on the 19th, we should be consistent with the other districts," said School Board member Frank Barbieri, who voted against the calendar. He said districts such as Miami-Dade and Broward had set Aug. 19 start dates.

Many parents also opposed the move.

"Three days is not a big deal but it is to people who are on vacation," Boynton Beach parent Stacy Gutner said. "I like the later start time, I have relatives up north and this has always gotten in the way."

Mayde Wiener, a parent in Highland Beach, said she was relieved by the board's decision.

"Kids learn elsewhere in the summer," Wiener said. "There's a lot to gain by having that one week more."

With two high school students, Wiener said changing the start date would also be a detriment to older students who might have to exit college programs or internships a couple weeks early because they don't wrap up until later in the summer.

"They're not taking that into consideration. They want kids to be at the top and be able to compete with various states and they're just not having that opportunity because starting school is starting so early," she said.

The calendar committee, made up of parents, teachers, administrators and the teacher's union recommended the earlier start. Unlike this year, the proposed calendar closed school for students on Veterans Day and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Board member Chuck Shaw said the move was largely favored by principals and teachers who preferred having more days in the first semester in order to finish the curriculum before Winter Break.

Superintendent Wayne Gent also added that having school start mid-week would allow the district time to address transportation and logistical issues over the weekend and resolve them quicker.

Officials said a new calendar proposal would be put before the School Board in the next couple of weeks.

Wiener, meanwhile, appreciated the board's action as it because it would allow more time for her kids to enjoy their summer.

"What about sheer fun? What's wrong with that?" she said.


Comments