*Information provided by the Watauga County School System. For more information see this previous published article on WataugaOnline.com from earlier this month.*
The Watauga County Board of Education, in conjunction with the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, unanimously passed a joint resolution March 23 in support of legislation allowing greater local control over setting and establishing the school calendar. In the resolution, the school board expressed concerns that one-size-fits-all calendar legislation set at the state level negatively impacts local district’s ability to set a schedule that fits its unique needs.
School districts in the mountains of western North Carolina for instance, are impacted much more heavily by winter weather than districts in the Piedmont, but are required to follow the same schedule as those lower elevation schools. Currently, the state legislature, not the local boards of education, define the local school calendar. Greater calendar flexibility would also enable Watauga County Schools to align its schedule more closely with that of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute. Currently, more than 250 Watauga High School students take classes at CCC&TI.
The resolution states that, “Local control over establishing school calendars is an integral component of school system supervision … state law has arrogated local control by imposing a one-size-fits-all decree on how school calendars are to be set; and, by arrogating local control, the current calendar law has led to the calendar for high schools, community colleges and universities being out of alignment by approximately two weeks, causing scheduling problems as college courses now begin before high school students complete January final exams.”
In late February and early March, Sen. Deanna Ballard and Rep. Jonathan Jordan introduced bills into the state senate and house that would allow Watauga County Schools, along with other nearby districts, greater flexibility to establish their own calendars to better allow for partnership with local community colleges and allow for special circumstances.
The bill states, “School calendar flexibility would benefit all students in Watauga County Schools who are enrolled in classes through Caldwell Community College by allowing them to align their fall and spring semesters with the fall and spring semesters at Caldwell Community College.”
Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said that he appreciated the efforts put forth by Sen. Ballard and Rep. Jordan to address the issue of school calendar flexibility in Watauga County.
“I am pleased to see our representatives working to allow up more flexibility in the way we set our calendar,” Elliott said. “The ability to manage the Watauga County Schools calendar from here in Watauga County would be a great benefit to our students. Local boards of education are best equipped to meet the unique scheduling needs of the students and families they serve.”
Watauga County Commission Chairman John Welch said North Carolina wasn’t well suited for statewide calendar legislation.
“Our board members believe it is essential for local boards of education to tailor their calendars to suit the needs of their students, parents and educators,” Welch said. “Our state is not ideal for a one-size-fits-all approach to calendar development. Our board gladly joins the board of education in encouraging our state representatives to return calendar flexibility to local districts which know what policies are in the best interests of their students.”