Schools need local calendar control

Jan 28, 2014

It’s not even February yet but already Haywood County Schools have had to cancel five full days of school because of inclement weather.

Missing days has forced the schools to re-arrange schedules, change teacher workdays, change testing dates and implement the dreaded Saturday school for students.

With plenty of winter left to come, trying to keep students and curriculum on track has become difficult for school officials and teachers. Having to abide by the rules and regulations handed down in Raleigh make that task more daunting.

The restrictions leave school officials with limited options as surveys show few people want to cancel spring break or extend the school year into June. Legislation tells the school systems when they can start classes, when they have to hold testing and by what day classes have to be completed.

But Haywood and other western North Carolina counties don’t have the same weather issues as the North Carolina coast — so why should the rules be the same for all?

Politicians are constantly reiterating the importance of local control because local agencies should know what is best for their students, teachers and staff. But that local control is not given to our school systems.

Knowing our winters in western North Carolina can vary, Haywood County Schools should be able to start school earlier if needed to ensure that students have adequate time to prepare for and take end-of-course testing before the winter break. Instead, high-school students in Haywood have to come back from winter break in January, take exams and then change their classes.

Republican legislators have been supportive of public charter schools in the state because charters are given flexibility when it comes to testing schedules, curriculum and school schedules. But the question remains — if flexibility is good for some, why isn’t it good for all?

As education policies are being revamped at the state level, it appears roadblocks stand in the way of the most prevalant option on the table — public schools.

While other education options such as public charter schools or private schools that receive state funding have great latitude in how they teach students, our public education system is still hamstrung with rules others don’t need to follow.

It is only fitting to level the playing field by providing flexibility across the board.

We should stand behind our public education institutions and make sure administrators and teachers have every tool they need, including the flexibility offered to others, to make sure students succeed.