Superintendent not in favor of longer summers

Published 3:45 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Legislators recently passed a measure that would impact the length of summer break for local schools.

On May 1, the Senate passed HB 360, a bill that would create a public school start date law that would make summer vacations longer. The aim of the bill is to lengthen the summer holiday in an effort to promote tourism, which would in turn help generate revenue for the state. If Gov. Robert Bentley signs the bill into law, it would take effect in the 2012-2013 school year. Bentley has not said whether or not he will sign the legislation.

Under the proposed law, schools would be forbidden to start before Aug. 20 and must be finished no later than May 24.

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Butler County Schools Superintendent Darren Douthitt has mixed feelings about the bill.

“I do not believe this is a decision that should be made by politicians,” he said. “I feel it’s a decision that is best made at the local level by the local boards of education.”

Douthitt said that the local boards of education have a better understanding of their communities and therefore are better equipped to make decisions concerning the school calendar.

“Every system in the state has seasonal activities that are unique to their area,” he said. “The local school boards know best about these various activities and are able to make decisions concerning the calendar based on those activities. When politicians make the decisions on these matters it creates problems.”

While Douthitt is not in favor of shortening the school calendar, he said he does support finding a way to avoid eliminating school employees due to funding constraints.

“I can support it for a time if it helps us avoid having people lose their jobs during these tough economic times,” he said. “I don’t feel that we should be putting tourism ahead of education, but if it saves jobs then I can deal with it. What I do like is that it’s not a permanent change. It’s something that can hopefully be eliminated in a couple of years if the economy changes.”

Douthitt, who believes the governor will sign the measure into law, said the school system has prepared two calendars for the upcoming school year that meet the new requirements.

“We’re in the process of getting feedback from our principals and parents, and we’ll work from one of these calendars next year,” he said.