Governor passes school start date bill

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 29, 2014

The decision on when to start the school year for teachers and students is back in the hands of local school boards after Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law Senate Bill 2571 into law earlier this week.

In 2012, the legislature passed a bill that wouldn’t have allowed school districts to start back to school until at least the third week of August.

Local superintendents and school administration were concerned how the late school year’s start would affect testing and midterms.

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“We were happy to see this law passed and signed by the governor,” said Picayune School District Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell.

Harrell said the district waited to approve a calendar for the upcoming school year until a decision was made on the bill. He said they will present and recommend a calendar to the school board at the next meeting.

Harrell said the calendar would be similar to last year’s with the year starting around Aug. 1 for teachers and Aug. 7 for students.

Even though the Pearl River County School District board voted on a school calendar for the upcoming year, Superintendent Alan Lumpkin said he would present an amended calendar to the board at the next meeting.

Lumpkin said the calendar, if approved by the board, would have students starting school on Aug. 7 and teachers starting on Aug. 1.

“Under Senate Bill 2571, local school districts will have the authority to set their start dates. I encourage all districts to consider the needs of students, families and communities when developing their calendars. Inconsistent school start and end dates can have an impact on enrollment in summer school programs for both students and teachers and can also have an impact on tourism throughout the state,” Gov. Bryant said in a press release.

The bill also adjusts the policy that regulated teachers purchasing school supplies through procurement cards.

The Mississippi Department of Education began the procurement card program last year. It allows eligible teachers to receive a debit card with a set limit that can be used to purchase school supplies.

The new law will enable the eligible teachers to receive their procurement cards earlier. The law states that school districts must submit the number of eligible teachers to the Mississippi Department of Education on or before Sept. 1.

“With this change, individual teachers will have more control over how to spend supply dollars in their classrooms, and they will receive those funds in a more efficient manner,” Gov. Bryant said in a press release.

Lumpkin said, this past year, eligible school district teachers didn’t receive their procurement cards until later in the school year. He said he is hopeful that by changing the submission date, it will allow teachers to have access to their cards earlier in order for them to supply their classroom with the necessary materials.