State Rep. Steve Hurst (R-Munford) is looking into legislation on starting all state public schools on the same calendar year. While nothing has been filed yet, both Alexander City and Tallapoosa County school boards oppose the legislation.
“None of this is written in stone,” state Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) said. “The excitement that you hear initially when something like this gets announced (is because) everybody has an opinion. It pays to wait until you have all the facts and then we can decide what is appropriate.”
Oliver said the legislature is talking with school boards throughout the state, looking into different bills and tourism stakeholders as of Wednesday afternoon. The legislature is looking at starting school after Labor Day and ending around Memorial Day, which is how it was when Oliver was in school.
Oliver said the reason for it would be to extend family vacations and bring in tourism, which fits the Lake Martin area, and provide more family time and summer programs for students. Oliver said he has “mixed feelings” on the possible legislation because it takes away the school boards’ independence.
“We’re a tourist area; that’s what we have,” Oliver said. “So we need to do some number crunching and decide what’s most advantageous to us all. Plus, I’m a family guy. I have four kids and I’d like to have my summer back.”
The Alexander City Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to oppose a uniform school calendar year at its January meeting. Superintendent Dr. Keith Lankford said signing the resolution along with other school boards gives a statement to the legislature that a certain amount of schools want to retain local control.
“Passing that resolution kind of put all of us going, ‘We stand behind this as a school system,’” Lankford said.
Lankford said the school board wants control over the school year because it can look at attendance dates and particular events to better design the school system’s calendar. All school systems are different and some need days off, such as Talladega schools taking days off around the NASCAR races in the spring and fall and Mobile schools taking off for Mardi Gras.
“I don’t think that’s what’s best for Alexander City,” Lankford said.
Lankford said Alexander City Schools’ calendar aligns itself with Central Alabama Community College for dual enrollment and summer classes.
Alexander City Schools will look at its 2020-21 calendar at its next meeting next Tuesday.
Tallapoosa County Board of Education members mentioned the possible legislation at its work session last week. Board member Michael Carter said he’s talked to Oliver about it and about student summer jobs and extended vacations.
“It’s not like we’re not including that in our conversation,” Carter said.
Board member Betty Carol Graham said the school calendar discussion has been happening for 30 years and if it becomes a bill and passes, it will take away the calendar manageability of local school boards.
“It shouldn’t be at the expense of the kids though,” board member Martin Johnson said.
Oliver said if the local school boards think it’s an overreach and becomes an issue, the decision can become a referendum issue citizens can vote on.
“Remember this has not been to committee yet,” Oliver said. “There’s lots of moving parts and it’s like everything else: They’re trying to come up with something that makes the most people happy.”
Oliver said the possible legislation getting a lot of attention but the legislature is not in a hurry to do it. There has been no discussion of extending the school day.
“(The statewide school calendar) has certainly been discussed by an awful lot of folks,” Oliver said. “We’re trying to get all the information together and see what will work for us.”
Editor’s Note: Tallapoosa County Schools superintendent Joe Windle is unable to comment for the board due to health reasons and director of student services Casey Davis did not return calls before press time.