March 27, 2014 10:24:14 AM
Local school boards again have control of their own academic calendars after Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday signed SB 2571, a bill that applies technical amendments to educational law and strikes a 2012 provision requiring the state's public schools to start their year no earlier than the third Monday in August.
While championing the technical amendments, Bryant took a swipe at lawmakers in a release after signing the legislation by saying he "might have taken different action" if representatives sent him a clean start-date bill minus the additional changes.
The 2012 provision was set to take effect for the first time this year, which would have forced schools to begin their academic years no earlier than Aug. 18.
Opponents to the late starting date said beginning the academic year in the middle of August would impact state testing efforts and cause students to finish their fall semesters after Christmas break.
The former law came to fruition after Gulf Coast officials successfully lobbied for the change, Rep. Gary Chism, said Tuesday. The group pitched the delay as a way to possibly increase tourism revenues, he said.
As signed into law, the bill also amends rules regarding the withdrawal of school accreditation in A- and B-rated districts, adjusts school supply-purchasing policies and addresses academic needs of dual-enrollment students.
"Under (SB 2571), local school districts will have the authority to set their start dates. I encourage all districts to consider the needs of students, families and communities when developing their calendars," Bryant said in the release. "Inconsistent school start and end dates can have an impact on enrollment in summer school programs for both students and teachers, and can also have an impact on tourism throughout the state."
Locally, Starkville School District Superintendent Lewis Holloway and Columbus Municipal School District Superintendent Edna McGill supported the repeal. Both districts, like many other systems across the state, have not formally set their 2014-2015 academic calendars as they awaited the fate of SB 2571 but are expected to do so now that the provision is gone.
CMSD, SSD and Lowndes County School District began their respective 2013-2014 academic years on Aug. 7, while an Oktibbeha County School District spokesperson told The Dispatch Tuesday that it started instruction on Aug. 1.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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