Read Wayne Rodolfich's letter regarding school start date

The Gulf Coast Business Council recently published a report about the benefits of starting school at a later date and how it may impact revenue in the state of Mississippi. I am an ex-officio member of this organization and have great respect for its membership. I understand that they have not endorsed a position on the start date of school. I believe this is a responsible position to take since no one has asked schools how it will impact them.

Each year we create our school calendar about six months in advance of the coming school year. We publish this calendar and share it with our faculty advisory committee and our parent advisory committee. They share it with the people that they represent. Every school has a representative for each of these committees. They review this calendar and send it back with suggestions for changes based on their analysis. We try to align this calendar with our local industry breaks and college breaks to ensure continuity within our community. We review the recommendations and submit the calendar to our board for their approval. The board is either elected or appointed and represents the people in our community.

One important note is our students, teachers and communities are being evaluated under the most rigorous standards ever set forth in the state of Mississippi for the public school system. There is pressure to increase workforce development programs for our business and industry and to graduate students at a higher rate than ever before. We have embraced all of these challenges and many of us are rising to the occasion. We must be allowed the flexibility as professionals to create the best possible schedule for our students and teachers to accomplish these expectations that are mandated by the state and federal government.

Energy savings has been one argument for the change. Schools in the state of Mississippi must have 180 student days per year and 187 teacher days per year. Regardless of the start date we will have to use the electricity and cooling or heating systems to ensure the comfort of these people during the days they attend school. Many school districts have energy saving programs and have saved substantial monies by monitoring energy use.

The claim that more money can be generated for tourism is confusing to me. None of the people who attend or work in our schools are tourists; they live here. If you need to hire people to work in the tourism industry, we currently have between 8 and 10% of our people out of work in the state of Mississippi. It seems we could somehow cross reference our data base from the unemployment office to recruit people who are currently unemployed and put them to work in the tourism industry.

If schools are forced to start at a later start date, it will limit number of days of instruction before the first administration of the state subject area test for schools on a block schedule. The later start will not allow for students to have the required seat time for teachers to adequately prepare them for the four end-of-course tests that are required for graduation. A straight block schedule allows students to attain eight credits per year. This provides students with 32 opportunities to attain credit toward graduation. These 32 credits allow students to enroll in higher diploma tracks, which can enhance their performance on the ACT and make them more attractive to scholarship granting institutions.

Forcing a later start date will diminish the flexibility for students who want to become accomplished musicians, athletes, academics, or artists. It also stymies students who struggle academically because they have no margin for error in their scheduling. It will require them to double-up on subjects like English and mathematics if they fail a course in any given year.

One other consideration is the vocational centers in our state that have multiple schools who utilize their facilities. If all schools are forced to a seven-period day, then schools will have to commit two class periods per day for students to travel to and from shared centers. It will also leave them only five credits to take their core courses and participate in other activities.

These are just a few considerations about the impact changing the start of school will have on school districts. I would appreciate it if the people who are most effected by this proposed change would be given a voice in the discussion.

Wayne Rodolfich
PSD Superintendent