Late start to school year could be repealed

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Senate Bill 2571, which would repeal a section of a 2012 law that requires that the public school year not start until the third week of August, has passed and now moves on to the House for a vote.

The Senate voted 31-15 on the amendment that would repeal the 2012 law and 49-1 to pass the bill as amended, which allowed the bill to move on to the House.

Local superintendents Alan Lumpkin of Pearl River County School District and Dean Shaw of Picayune School District are both concerned about how the 2012 law would affect the semester schedule.

“The biggest concern is getting the first semester completed before the Christmas holidays,” Lumpkin said.

Both Lumpkin and Shaw said pushing back the school start date would push midterms back to after the Christmas holidays.

Shaw said it would also be a conflict with the community college school calendar, which would affect dual enrollment students.

Each semester is comprised of 90 school days.

Lumpkin also said that there are very few holidays that school districts can take to accommodate the amount of days students must attend school in a semester.

Senator Tony Smith voted to pass the bill as amended through the Senate. According to the state legislature website, Smith voted against the amendment that would have repealed the 2012 law, but Smith said he was not present for the amendment votes.

Smith said he could see both sides of the argument on the school start date. He said the reason he voted on the 2012 law was because of the number of heat related deaths of students.

“When we initially passed this law, it was about the safety of the children,” Smith said.

Lumpkin and Shaw said their coaching staffs and band directors are careful about keeping the students who practice during the summer hydrated and giving them breaks.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association provides recommendations to coaches and activity monitors to help keep students from becoming sick due to heat.

Shaw said when it becomes too hot outside during the school year the schools will bring students inside for recess to prevent them from becoming overheated.

Brent Harrell, Picayune Assistant Superintendent, said that the school provides cold water for students on buses that don’t have air conditioning during the hot months.

Before the repeal of the 2012 law can be passed, the bill must be approved by the House and signed by Governor Phil Bryant.