A debate popping up in school systems across Georgia is now in the hands of Richmond County parents.
Richmond County school officials sent parents a survey Thursday asking for their input on the 2006-07 school calendar. Many school systems are considering pushing the start of school back, and some are pushing for the state to mandate a uniform start date.
The two options presented to parents let them choose between starting school Aug. 14 or a week later. The later start date would have school ending in June.
It's just too hot for children to be in school in August, said school board member Barbara Pulliam, who brought the issue of changing the calendar to the board. In fact, school shouldn't start until after Labor Day, she said.
"We go back to school in one of the hottest months in Georgia," the retired teacher said. "You know I taught for 30-something years, and it was hot. The kids couldn't go out for recess. They couldn't go out for PE."
Not only is it a matter of comfort, it's a matter of economics, Mrs. Pulliam said. School buses have no air conditioning, and schools at times have problems with air conditioning. When they are working, it isn't cheap to cool the county's schools.
The calendars of area colleges and universities are among the considerations when setting the Richmond County calendar, because many teachers use summer vacations to take classes.
"It's hot where they are, too," Mrs. Pulliam said of the colleges. "I would think they would consider changing their calendars because they get a lot of money from those teachers."
The Augusta State University College of Education has a summer schedule separate from the rest of the university to accommodate teachers, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs William Dodd said. Teachers don't typically have problems working and taking summer classes unless those classes are outside the college of education, he said.
Diane Sprague, a parent of a John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School seventh-grader, said she prefers the calendar as it is. Pushing the start date back puts midterm exams after the Christmas break and would affect holiday travel, Ms. Sprague said.
"You come home for a two-week break and you still have exams hanging over your head," she said.
And as far as heat considerations?
"It can be pretty hot here in February," Ms. Sprague said. "It's going to be hot on either end of it."
The board could vote on the calendar options at its next regular business meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 12.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.