Editorial: Longer summer breaks from school worth studying

When the Georgia General Assembly convenes today in Atlanta under the Gold Dome there will be a lot of greetings and handshakings, introductions and swearing-ins as the members get the first-day preliminaries out of the way.

And though there are a lot of issues that we'd like the assembly to consider -- and many to pass on -- during their 40-day session, there is one we'd like to recommend be given further study -- longer summer breaks from school.

Troubled by the diminishing summer breaks, state lawmakers created a study committee last year to examine "the issue of varied school start dates to determine its economic impact to the travel and hospitality industry." A proposal from a Senate study committee, which included lawmakers, state officials and representatives from the business and tourism industries, was sent to local school boards and officials, whose reactions were less than enthusiastic.

The legislative proposal would bring back the longer summer vacations of the past and cut back on the number of shorter breaks throughout the school year. But school officials say such a change would wreck school calendars and testing schedules, according to a recent story reported by Jill Nolin, state reporter for CNHI.

Currently, many school systems end their school year by in early June and re-open in early to mid-August. That leaves only a few weeks of summer vacation time that must be crammed into the rest of June and July.

The legislative committee found that while the economic impact of more students working would be beneficial, an added bonus would be an increase in the vocational growth of the young workforce in one of Georgia's leading industries. Plus, students who get more work hours during the summer would get a few more weeks of paychecks that may be needed for their college fund or other expenses.

The committee also cited concerns about costs associated with Georgia's hot summer days, which is something we've all heard grumblings about. Costs to cool schools, buses and after-school activities are at their highest that time of year.

So what are the objections to the plan? School systems fear losing local control.

And we can understand that. But this would not be a "one size fits all" plan. After all, what may work in Murray County may not be workable or feasible in Valdosta in south Georgia.

What the plan offers are not strict parameters but "guard rails" that would require school districts to start the school year no earlier than seven to 10 days before Labor Day and end around June 1.

Local school systems could then adjust their schedules accordingly. Just as they have inserted a "mid-winter break" in February they can just as easily remove it.

Murray County Schools has the right idea. Its school year begins after Labor Day and ends by June. They did a local adjustment by adding a few minutes to the school day and the results work for them.

Shifting class time from August to spring would take advantage of the season's milder climate. It's a step school officials, who complain about funding cuts, could take to save money.

Lengthening the summer vacation gives families more options with regard to when they take vacations. In this high-pressured, social media-dominated world we live in, the more time families spend together is important. Plus it would give a nice boost to the state's tourism industry.

Some may say we're being a bit old fashioned with cries of "we used to do it that way, and it worked for us back then." But we do feel that the legislature should continue to promote the idea of longer summer breaks but leaving the final calendar up to local control.

A longer summer break may be an old-fashioned idea, but that doesn't necessarily make it a bad idea.

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