N.C. Sen. Norman Sanderson admitted he had some homework to do on the idea of a modified school calendar for Craven County Schools.
"We’re still in research mode," said Sanderson, the new Senate representative for Craven, Pamlico and Carteret counties. "I’d like to hear some parental input. I’d like to find out how many other school systems are like Craven and have multiple school calendars. That’s one of the things we have to check out. We’ll do our research. We’ll do our homework."
The Craven County Board of Education is proposing a modified school calendar for 2013-14 in which classes would begin Aug. 5 and dismiss for the year on May 23. Because of state law that mandates when classes start and end, the board needs a local bill introduced and passed through the General Assembly to implement the new calendar.
Sanderson, since he represents the area, would be the legislator to introduce such a bill, but he said he has not decided whether to introduce legislation that would grant Craven County a waiver for the new calendar.
He pointed to a number of factors, including whether the General Assembly would even approve an exemption to the state law for Craven County Schools.
"We have to get a feel for it and see how the other representatives feel about it in the General Assembly," he said. "Everyone has to be on board with it. We have to see what the attitudes toward granting waivers are."
Craven County currently operates on three school calendars. Most of the schools in the county operate on the traditional calendar, in which school starts no earlier than Aug. 25 and dismisses no later than June 10.
Havelock and Arthur W. Edwards elementary schools and Tucker Creek Middle School operate on year-round calendars, in which classes begin in the middle of July and continue for nine weeks, with three-week breaks built in throughout the year and a shorter five-week summer.
The early college high school calendar is more aligned with traditional college calendars in which the semester ends before Christmas break.
Craven County Schools officials maintain that having three school calendars is difficult on families who may have children on different schedules and struggle finding the time for vacations. They also say the calendars make district-wide professional development and teacher training difficult because the teacher workdays don’t coincide. They also point to the benefits of ending a semester and taking final exams before Christmas break, which would allow the possibility that older students could graduate high school early and enroll in college for spring semesters.
"It’s one of those things where I know, as evidenced by past battles, that it’s an issue some people don’t like," Sanderson said of the modified calendar. "Some of the people in year-round schools really want to keep year-round.
"I understand both sides. I understand what the Craven County administration wants to do, to get everyone on the same schedule, but I see the benefits of year-round."
Craven County Schools has set a March 15 deadline for action by the General Assembly on the proposed modified calendar waiver. If no action is taken, the school system will keep the traditional, year-round and early college calendars for 2013-14.
Newly elected N.C. House representatives Michael Speciale and George Graham could not be reached for comment.