Should local districts decide school start dates? - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Should local districts decide school start dates?

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Bangor, WI (WXOW) -

State law says public schools in Wisconsin cannot start classes before September, but opponents are once again gearing up to end that requirement.

The law is supposed to protect the state's tourism industry from losing their teenage employees to the start of school before the end of the tourist season. For years, school administrators have complained about the requirement and now they're finding support from some state lawmakers. This month lawmakers re-introduced a bill to repeal that mandate. Students and staff in rural areas like Bangor are saying it would be more convenient to have the choice to begin earlier.

"Waiting until September 1st kind of hamstrings us a little bit as far as far as flexibility for scheduling during the school year," said Bangor Principal Don Addington. "I think it's best left up to local control and local school boards to determine that calendar based on your own unique needs."

The principal said the majority of students will already be here for fall activities and it makes more sense to start earlier. Students tended to either echo that sentiment, or had no strong opinion either way.

"Most kids are back for sports early on," said junior Luke Reader. "It wouldn't really matter if we started earlier."

"It doesn't really matter to me," said junior Elizabeth Nicolai. "Start school whenever."

Activities like football, volleyball, marching band and others start far before September 1. Should this law be repealed, not all districts would be required to start earlier, but they could if they felt it was in their best interests.

"I guess for us it would be a positive just because we do have so many students that are active," said special education teacher Todd Grant. "I think it would be good for our kids."

The convenience of fall activities running more concurrent with the start of school isn't the only reason for Bangor.The extra weeks leave the district more room for excess snow days, lengthier holiday breaks and time to prepare for testing.

"If you look at the standardized tests--for example the ACT--and those tests that we give, that will give another maybe two weeks of instruction going in to those tests in the spring. So I think there's more advantages than disadvantages to doing it that way," said Principal Addington.

It may not be the best fit for all districts, but for those at Bangor, it's a decision many wouldn't mind seeing bring more choice closer to home.

Tourists do typically spend much more in August than earlier in the summer and districts around the Wisconsin Dells area show less support for repealing the law since many high school employees work in tourism-related industries. In rural Bangor however, impact on tourism would be much smaller. That could be a moot point should this legislation fail once again. Opponents of the mandatory September start date have tried over the past 16 years to repeal the law but haven't found much traction.

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