Some schools push back against early start

Updated Aug 08, 2016

While school generally has started earlier in recent years, a review of the largest districts in the Dayton area shows that roughly half are starting later than they did last year.

It’s true that the first starting date in the area keeps marching earlier — it’s this Wednesday for Centerville, Huber Heights and Jefferson Twp. That Aug. 10 date is the earliest in three years.

But nine of the area’s 20 largest districts are starting later this year than last year, and six of those — Kettering, Northmont, Fairborn, Troy, Sugarcreek and Tipp City — moved their start dates back by close to a week.

Beavercreek and Springboro are the only large districts starting a week earlier this year.

“We received a lot of feedback from our parents and families that starting that early didn’t bode well for summer trips and vacations,” said Kettering City Schools Superintendent Scott Inskeep. Kettering moved its start date from Aug. 12 last year to Aug. 17 this year. “We tried to listen, and we think moving it back that week will help.”

Six Dayton-area districts start this week, including Springboro, Miamisburg and Lebanon. The largest collection of schools start next week (Aug. 15-19), including Dayton, Beavercreek, Northmont, Xenia, Oakwood and most local Catholic schools.

School districts in Miami County start Aug. 23-24, along with West Carrollton, Fairborn and others. The last bunch, starting Aug. 29-31, is primarily Darke County schools that wait until the end of their county fair.

Greeneview is the last to start, Aug. 31, because of a summer construction project. That’s five days before Labor Day, which once was the back-to-school standard.

“It’s all a matter of how you structure the 180 days,” Sugarcreek schools business manager Jeff Lewis said. “For us, there seems to be an appreciation of getting out before June. I’ve always found the high schools like to get out early, and the elementary level would prefer having a spring break. More districts are doing a mid-fall break. … You can play with that calendar all over the place.”

Tweaking calendars

If Ohio’s College Credit Plus program grows significantly, there eventually might be more of an effort to align K-12 and college calendars. In many schools today, administrators will create a few versions of the next school year’s calendar, then work with the teachers’ union to tweak and finalize it.

Centerville Superintendent Tom Henderson said his district will weigh whether to move its spring break earlier in 2018, but has continued to start early for a few reasons. It gives teachers more time to help students improve before the state testing window (late March to early May), and allows them to wrap up the first semester, including exams, before Christmas break.

But not everyone likes starting early. At Weisenborn Junior High’s student orientation session, some parents and students wished their summer was a more traditional June-July-August.

“They don’t get to enjoy the true summer, because sometimes it’s still cold when they get out in May,” parent Julie Larman said Friday just before taking a group of teenagers to Kings Island. From May 19 to June 2 this year, there were six days with high temperatures in the 50s and 60s.

Weisenborn student Abigail Romig agreed, saying when school ends well before Memorial Day, pools are not open and there’s not much to do.

State officials emphasize that school calendars should be a local decision. West Carrollton Superintendent Rusty Clifford agreed that one-size-fits-all wouldn’t make sense — his district generally won’t start earlier than the current Aug. 23 because only two of its seven school buildings are air conditioned.

West Carrollton does have one year-round school (nine weeks on for every three weeks off), but Clifford said there’s no clear difference in how students perform on that model versus the traditional set-up.

“It’s not how many hours you have, it’s what happens in those hours that makes the difference,” Clifford said.

Sports on Aug. 1

An anecdotal look at local districts shows no clear link between earlier starts and better test scores. Dayton and Centerville both start early, with very different results, while Northridge and Sugarcreek both start later, and are far apart on the score spectrum.

There’s no consensus from state to state, either, as many Indiana schools have already been in session for more than a week. New York schools go from September through mid-June.

Kettering’s Inskeep said there isn’t much upside to going back to a Labor Day start. He mentioned more instruction time before state tests, high school students getting a jump on competition for summer jobs in May, and hundreds of families who have to be ready by August 1 for sports, band and other fall activities.

“(A Labor Day start) just doesn’t benefit the students because so many things start so early,” he said. “A lot of parents tell me their students are ready to go back.”