The Craven County Board of Education wants the N.C. General Assembly to allow it to modify its 2013-14 school year calendar, but many parents waking up to the possible change already are contacting local legislators about it.
For their part, most of the area’s lawmakers say school system officials have not yet briefed them on the idea and want to gather more information about it.
In November, the Craven school board voted to seek a waiver from the start dates now required by state law. It is asking that a local bill to grant the waiver be introduced by N.C. Sen. Norman Sanderson, R-Pamlico, and that it be approved by March 15.
School Board Chairman Carr Ipock said the waiver would allow the county to start the 2013-14 academic year on Aug. 5 and end it on May 23, 2014, at all 25 Craven County public schools.
At present, Craven schools operate on one of three calendars. Most of the county’s schools use the traditional calendar, in which school starts no earlier than Aug. 25 and dismisses no later than June 10.
Meanwhile, Craven schools on a year-round calendar begin classes in mid-July and continue for nine weeks, with several three-week breaks and a five-week summer break. The county’s two Early College high schools operate on a calendar aligned with Craven Community College.
The school board would like to use the same start and end dates throughout the system, Ipock said. He cited several advantages, such as first semester exams and testing coming before Christmas break, which he said is shown to produce better test scores, and high school seniors graduating early, which would allow them to enroll in college in time for the spring semester.
Sanderson said last week that he still had some homework to do on the issue. He said he wanted to get feedback from parents before introducing a bill that would grant Craven the waiver to go to the modified calendar. He also said he wanted to get a feel from other legislators to see if such a measure would even pass the General Assembly.
N.C. District 3 Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, and N.C. District 12 Rep. George W. Graham, D-Lenoir, who both represent parts of Craven County, said they had not been contacted about the issue.
"I read about it, but I have not been approached or asked to do anything," said Graham, who was elected in November to fill the House seat held by the late Rep. William Wainwright. He has received mail from someone opposed to the change.
"I would sit down and talk with the school board," he said. "They are elected officials like us, with the protocol to manage the system — hire, fire, budget. I would not get out front of a board of education bus without having some direction from them."
Speciale is a retired Marine with connections in Havelock where three schools — Havelock Elementary, Arthur W. Edwards Elementary and Tucker Creek Middle — operate under the year-round calendar.
"I’ve gotten emails, letters and calls from parents," he said. "My position is that for me to support it, the Board of Education would have to prove to me in some way that the parents want it changed."
Speciale suggested talk of a local bill might be premature.
"Generally a local bill doesn’t even get introduced without support of the full delegation," he said.
He also said the schools’ time frame for March 15 passage appears hasty because the General Assembly session does not begin until Jan. 30, and there are already a number of high priority bills lined up.
The school system’s calendar committee met in announced, public meetings last year and proposed the modified calendar, but also proposed the traditional, year-round and Early College calendars. If the wavier fails or is not considered by the legislature, Craven County would operate under the traditional, year-round and Early College calendars for 2013-2014.
Craven County Schools formerly operated under a calendar similar to the one proposed until the General Assembly passed legislation in 2004 taking school calendar choices out of the hands of local boards. The legislative action was pushed by the travel and tourism industry and some parents’ groups.