SEBRING — Only one Florida school district will be starting the new school year later than the Highlands County School District -- the only school system starting classes Wednesday.
Eighty-percent of the school districts in the state are starting their new school year on Monday. Union County, which opens its schools Thursday, is the only district with a later start than Highlands County. The earliest starters are Citrus and Nassau counties, which opened schools Aug. 6.
Deputy Superintendent Rodney Hollinger explained they started school on a Wednesday “because it makes it cleaner in the end,” meaning schools then end their school year at the end of a week.
The 2014-15 school year will end on June 4, a Thursday, for students, he explained, so teachers will have one more day and finish that Friday.
If the district had waited until Aug. 25 to start classes, school would have ended in the middle of the week, in the week of June 6, he said.
“When you are trying to start summer school or start vacations or whatever, it is better to have it clean at the end of the week,” Hollinger said. “That’s the logic behind it.”
Some districts are starting before and others are starting after Highlands County, he said. Spring break is the same way. Highlands County is in the middle.
This school year spring break coincides with the 12 Hours of Sebring race week. Spring break is March 16-20 while the 12 Hours of Sebring is scheduled for March 18-21.
Hollinger noted there have been years when the district planned spring break during race week to avoid absenteeism when employees go to the races. He noted that some prefer spring break earlier.
“There is nothing cut in stone, but yes, there is a rational for whatever we do,” he said. The calendar is developed with input from a committee of teachers and non-instructional union members and administrators.
The 2014-15 school year calendar features 10 two-hour early release days with the first early release on Sept. 17.
The Volusia County School District has a novel early release schedule. The district has 33 early release days. The one-hour early release days are scheduled every Wednesday except the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, which is an early release, because the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a day off.
Hollinger said: “We looked at that and talked about it for a while, but the teachers thought it was crazy and the parents would go nuts,” trying to schedule day care.
According to state law, public schools cannot start school more than 14 days before Labor Day, but “A” rated school districts are exempt from the requirement.
Meanwhile, parents were divided about the best day of the week to start school.
Comments on Highlands Today’s Facebook page showed some preferred a Monday start and others believed a Wednesday start had some benefits.
Karron L Neale Tedder said: “School used to start the Wednesday after Labor Day, then it went to the Wednesday before Labor Day. But that was many years ago.
Starting on a Wednesday is good, gives students and teachers a chance to get all the adjustments made,papers that parents have to sign, class guidelines given out etc, Then on Monday the learning begins.”
Kristen Straily wrote, “I am loving the mid-week start. Definitely an easier adjustment. Mid-August seems appropriate to me, no earlier.”
Wendy Durrence Spain differed: “I would rather a Monday start and after Labor Day.”
Julie Wensmann Guzik also prefers a Monday start for the school year.