Local Readers ask: Why does school seem to start earlier each year? | CullmanSense

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Readers ask: Why does school seem to start earlier each year?

Classrooms all over the county, like this one at Hanceville Middle School, are ready to welcome students back to class. / W.C. Mann

CULLMAN COUNTY - Many of us old timers can remember when we started school the Wednesday or Thursday before Labor Day, with a lot of orientations, getting-to-know-yous, and general socializing before teachers really got down to business after that holiday.  Now, by Labor Day weekend the football team can already have two games in the books, and our kids are already complaining about how hard that first test was.

This year’s start, on Aug. 9, is falling earlier in the monthly calendar than previous years:

2016 - Aug. 10

2015 - Aug. 12

2014 - Aug. 13

The explanation, though, is simple: all four of these dates fall on the second Wednesday of the month, the currently accepted starting day, whatever its date on the calendar.  From 2011-13, however, the starting day was the third Monday.  So, what is happening?

The Tribune spoke with County Schools Superintendent Shane Barnette about how and why the school calendar has changed over the years.

“The state tells us what days to start by and what days to end by,” said Barnette.  “It’s the same amount of time as it has been; they just added more off time during the year.  Now, we give kids a whole week at Thanksgiving, and two weeks at Christmas.  We felt that more breaks during the year are important, to keep students from getting burnt out.”

Public schools across Alabama are required to offer 178 class days; while the teachers tack on a few extra in-service days, bringing their total to 187.  A view of the city and county system calendars shows how holidays and special events help offer students opportunities to “catch their breath.”

2017-18 school year

(Co - county system, Ci - city system)

  • First day of school . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Wednesday, Aug. 9 (Co/Ci)
  • Labor Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Monday, Sep. 4 (Co/Ci)
  • Cullman County Fair Day . . . . . . . . Monday, Sep. 25 (Co/Ci)
  • Columbus Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Monday, Oct. 9 (Ci)
  • Veterans Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Friday, Nov. 10 (Co/Ci)
  • Fall Break/Thanksgiving . . . . . . . . . Nov. 20-24 (Co/Ci)
  • Christmas/New Year . . . . . . . . . . . . Dec. 18 - Jan. 3 (Co), Dec. 21 - Jan. 2 (Ci)
  • Martin Luther King Day . . . . . . . . . Monday, Jan. 15 (Co/Ci)
  • Weather makeup day . . . . . . . . . . . . Monday, Feb. 19 (Co)
  • Presidents Day/Winter Break . . . . . . Feb. 19-20 (Ci)
  • Spring Break  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mar. 26-30 (Co/Ci)
  • Last day of school  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . May 24 (Co/Ci)

The city system’s weather days, if needed, will be May 29-31.  In addition to full days off, the county system will have early dismissal on Aug. 30, Oct. 4, Nov. 1, Jan. 10, Feb. 7, March 7, April 4 and May 2.  The city system will dismiss early on Dec. 20, the last day before the Christmas holiday break.

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  • W.C. Mann