Senator gathering opinions on school start dates

A state senator wants to know whether Indiana residents think public schools start their
fall semesters too early.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, a Republican from Auburn who heads the Senate Education Committee,
wants people to take an online survey and offer comments on a new Web site: www.IndianaEducationForum.com.

The
site is paid for by Save Indiana Summers, a group of parents and businesses pushing for a law that would prohibit school from
starting before the last week in August. But Kruse says he welcomes all opinions on the issue. Kruse will also hear from
the public at the Statehouse during a Sept. 30 meeting at which a legislative study committee will consider the feedback from
Web comments and survey results.

"I don’t want to take family time away from parents who feel strongly one
way or another about the school start date or school calendar," Kruse said. "So I have decided to do what I can
to give parents across the state a way to have their voices heard during the interim study committee hearings."

Tourism-related businesses want school to start later so children can spend more time at attractions such as amusement
parks. Will Koch, president of Holiday World in Santa Claus, said his park no longer stays open until Labor Day during the
week because so many students are back in school in mid-August.

"That’s some of the best weather of summer,"
Koch said. Parents with Save Indiana Summers said moving the school start date later in the year would boost tax revenue
from tourism and save money, in part because it’s expensive to cool schools during the hottest days of August.

Nancy Curless of Carmel, who has two children in public schools, said her district started Aug. 11.

"Kids
and parents weren’t excited about it," she said. "You’re just starting summer and then suddenly summer is over."

But efforts to push the start of school back have been met with opposition from those who say local districts
should determine when school starts. State Rep. Terry Goodin, a Democrat who is superintendent of the Crothersville Schools
Corp., opposes the move to force districts to start school later.

"The school start date needs to be a local
decision made by local districts," Goodin said. "I think at this point local school boards should start when they
want to start. If the amusement industry wants to start later, then they can talk to parents and then can all go to the local
school board and make their case."

Crothersville students went back to school on Aug. 3, and Goodin said
he didn’t field any complaints about the date. "Parents like that situation," he said. "They understand the
importance of education. And by the end of summer, kids are bored and ready to come back to school."

The
House Education Committee this year considered a bill to push back the start of school, but chairman Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis)
did not take a vote because there was too much push back from opponents. The committee has also considered proposals to lengthen
the school year, which would be made more difficult with a later start date.

But Porter says the idea of starting
school later might be more palatable now than a few years ago because Indiana has moved its standardized testing from fall
to spring. Schools may no longer need earlier start days to review and prepare for the tests. Porter said he looks forward
to hearing how the issue might affect student achievement and school athletics.

"The economic and social
impact of a change could be tremendous," he said.


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