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Debate Over School Dates To Resume In January

Last updated on Tuesday, October 27, 2009

(INDIANA STATEHOUSE) - The debate over pushing the first day of school later in the year will resume in January when the general assembly reconvenes.

A 12-member study committee declined to issue an outright endorsement of starting school later, instead calling for "further review" by the legislature.

The panel also directed the nonpartisan legislative services agency to complete a study by year's end of how much money schools might save in energy and transportation costs by pushing the first day of school to late August or early September.

At least two lawmakers plan to introduce bills for a later start.

Senate education chairman Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn), who also headed the study committee, has supported the effort and says he'll give the proposal a hearing.

Kruse says the study committee's discussions pointed out at least two flaws in previous attempts at the change.

He expects next year's bills to include exemptions for year-round school and districts where the teachers' contract locks in a specific calendar.

House Education Chairman Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) isn't committing one way or the other to giving the proposal a hearing, but says the conversation about it needs to continue.

Porter says there needs to be a "holistic" solution to the issue, one which preserves the state's requirement of 180 class days while taking into account energy costs, economic effects, and other factors raised during the study committee's discussions.

Many Indiana school districts now begin classes in early-to-mid-August.

Supporters of forcing the date later argue that interferes with traditional family vacation time, and forces schools to either run up their air-conditioning costs or leave students trying to concentrate in sweltering heat.

Backers also claim a change would be an economic boost for summer-leisure businesses, from water parks to boat-rental shops.

And Kruse says the extension of the Indiana state fair to 17 days has created fresh pressure for a later start, with 4-H members missing the first few days of class because they were in Indianapolis exhibiting their animals.

Opponents argue there isn't enough time to conduct 180 class days, start school after labor day, observe traditional holiday breaks and still adjourn for the summer by the beginning of June.

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