After hearing about Franklin County Schools’ calendar changes for the upcoming year, in which students will start earlier in August, many parents voiced concerns on social media about the school taking more of the students’ summer break away.
During the January monthly meeting, school board members voted to change the calendar for the 2018-2019 school year, moving up the start date by a week and moving spring break from March to April to match up with other counties’ spring breaks.
For the current year, school started on Aug. 14, but the next academic year will begin on Aug. 8. The Franklin County School Board moved up the start date so Christmas break could begin earlier. Students this year went to school up to Dec. 22.
Many parents or guardians posted comments worried that the school is cutting into summer break and vacations that families had planned around that time. A lot of comments mentioned that the school should resort back to starting after Labor Day.
“Whatever happened to starting school around Labor Day?” Kristen Ann Chisom commented on a Facebook post.
She added that the start date is cutting into her family’s summertime vacations.
“We go on two each summer for visiting various family and beach time,” she commented. “How do we tell family that we have to alternate annual vacation times because the school keeps readjusting their schedule? Ridiculous.”
All school board members were contacted for comment but referred all questions to Mark Church, the division’s superintendent.
Church said in an email that Salem is the only division to start school after Labor Day.
“In all actuality, we backed up the calendar three days, yes, just three days,” Church said. “This helps us finish the semester three days before Christmas break.”
Chisom, who lives in Windy Gap and has a daughter in eighth grade, told The Franklin News-Post that every summer her family spends one to two weeks visiting family down south and another week visiting family up north. She added that she runs a business, so she has to coordinate summer vacations well in advance.
She said that her summer 2018 vacations were already planned but that she has to reconfigure them because of the early start date.
“It’s really aggravating,” she said.
She said the Aug. 14 start date was better because it was closer to September.
“It really is cutting off vacation time for the kids to enjoy their summer,” she said. “You want to travel and spend quality time with family.”
She added that she would rather see school start between Aug. 12 -20.
Malinda Yates of Burnt Chimney has a grandson in elementary school and said it’s getting more difficult to schedule her grandson’s physicals in time before school.
“The calendar is not being set up to be instrumental for anyone,” she said. “To say it’s unfair for the Governor School’s kids, wouldn’t it be fine just to line up their spring break? Why are they changing the whole school calendar?”
Part of the reason to change spring break from March to April is because the Roanoke Governor’s School, which some Franklin County High School students attend, has spring break in April. During the county’s spring break, the Governor’s School students still have to attend that school half-day and vice versa when the Governor’s School has their spring break in April.
With the division’s decision to move spring break to April, some parents are concerned that there won’t be enough time for instruction and review before state testing in May.
“I don’t like that they will have to hustle to get the testing in but they feel confident that they can do it. They meaning the staff,” commented Yates, who goes by Mindy Sue Gill on Facebook.
“Our kids were so stressed this year they had migraines and were sick to their stomachs because of having to get it done. … Set the calendar the right way and teach properly and quit screwing with our kids.”
Yates said she believes the school division is trying to push for year-round schooling.
“They’re trying to make it seem like it is,” she said.
She said that with June and July being peak summer season, it would be “pointless” to take her children on vacation because the heavy summer crowds won’t make it enjoyable.
“I think they bumped their heads,” she said of the school board. “I think they need to sit down and reconsider it and give these kids the time to be children.”
Mike Smith of Boones Mill has a child in fifth grade and another who is homeschooled. He believes the calendar change will not benefit majority of the students.
“A lot of the kids have summer jobs,” he said. “A lot of people come down to the lake for life guard jobs. My kids love the summer, they love the lake, but it’s a short summer.”
Smith added that with school starting so early, it’s harder to get the tax break when it’s time to buy school supplies.
He’s talking about the Virginia Sales Tax Holiday, a handful of days or a weekend where shoppers can buy items such as clothing, school items or weather preparedness gear without paying sales tax. Virginia’s Back to School Sales Tax Holiday is Aug. 3 to Aug. 5 this year.
“We’re missing out on that benefit,” he said. “If they push up the start date, no one’s going to wait until Aug. 3 to buy school supplies.”
Church said in his email, however, that the board received criticism this year for not starting winter break until right before