Legislators Renew Push for Early School Start Date

The Door County Visitor Bureau (DCVB) is joining with the Wisconsin Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus to oppose legislation that would remove the ban from starting schools before Sept. 1.

“We believe that repealing the school start date legislation will harm our local tourism economy,” DCVB President and CEO Jack Moneypenny wrote in the DCVB’s February newsletter. “We have all felt the drop right after Labor Day and this drop will occur 2-3 weeks earlier in the middle of August depending on when individual schools start classes during our prime tourism month. The argument is that families can finish school earlier and start traveling in early June for vacations. I think we can all agree that the weather in early June versus mid-August are two entirely different things. In addition, the loss of any local student workers with an earlier start date could add another stress on our already taxed seasonal help.”

This is the fourth time similar legislation has been introduced. The authors this time – Senator Alberta Darling and Rep. Jim Ott – last introduced the legislation in 2015. That time, they sought an exemption that would allow districts with 20 percent of students taking Advanced Placement courses to choose their own start dates. That bill did not pass.

Ott said back in 2015 that school superintendents would like the opportunity to start school before Sept. 1, but two county superintendents realize there are many factors that must be weighed.

“Allowing boards of education to have local control of the school year calendar’s start date allows them to be responsive to the community they serve – students, families, and businesses,” said Patricia Vickman, superintendent of the Southern Door School District. “Even if the law was to change for next fall, Southern Door will be following its recently approved calendar for 2017-18 which has a start date of Sept. 5, 2017. If the law changed and local control is given to the board to determine the start date, the district would seek feedback through surveys and discussions at community conversations in order to be as responsive as possible to both the school and the community’s needs.”

“With Sept. 1 falling on a Thursday this school year, we had decided to wait to start classes until after the holiday weekend. With Sept. 1 falling on Friday next fall, we really didn’t even consider starting before the holiday weekend,” said Dan Tjernagel, superintendent of the Sturgeon Bay School District.

“It is something our board would probably discuss as we consider options in the years Sept. 1 falls earlier in that week before the holiday weekend; however, that won’t come up again until September of 2020,” Tjernagel said. “I don’t wish to sound trite, but there are many other things local boards and administrators could be working on between now and October/November of 2019 when we’re getting serious about that 2020-2021 school year calendar.”

But Tjernagel does believe the state needs to put some thought into when school starts.

“But I think this is more of an issue driven by how early fall sports start at the secondary level,” he said. “With the contact days sports have over the summer and busy teenage and family schedules, I personally think that there are conversations related to these issues that should be occurring. For example, based on the WIAA calendar I’ve seen the date for issuing football equipment will be July 31, 2017, and July 30, 2018. That’s right, July! I think this is a bigger issue as we look not only at the expectations for our student-athletes, but also what communities expect from our coaches.”

Moneypenny advised DCVB newsletter readers to contact their legislators to let them “know how we feel as a community about this change.”

Related Organizations

Article Comments