The divided board approved the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school year calendars after an hour-long discussion back and forth between two proposals.
The board voted 4-3 with members Scott Sweeney, Tim Stultz and Kathleen Angelucci opposed, in favor of a “balanced” calendar.
Board member David Banks preferred an earlier start date, he said, because it would give students one less week to get involved with violence and crime. Banks said out of more than 3,000 emails he received, the majority preferred the week off in September and earlier start date.
Sweeney said his constituents told him that despite days off in the school year, there were still sports practices, band practices and sports games scheduled on days off. The loss of revenue at concession stands and ticket booths drastically declines when school is not in session on those days, he said.
Angelucci and Stultz mentioned the economic impact of cutting summer break a week short, and they along with Sweeney bemoaned the missed opportunities of summer camps and vacations that could be scheduled during the first week of the school year.
Parents, teachers and administrators were divided on either side of the calendar vote.
Patti Morgan, who has two sons at Walton High School, involved in academics, sports and other extracurricular activities, said her children need the fall break
“Even if you start later, it is a long haul for these kids, from the beginning of August until Thanksgiving is a very long time for no breaks,” she said.
High schoolers at high-achieving schools need the time off to catch up on sleep and studying, she said.
Other parents think a longer summer break is better than a short fall break, because it gives students time in the summer to hold jobs and attend camps.
Chrissy Miletto, who has a junior at Lassiter High School, said once school is in session, activities like sports and marching band don’t stop for breaks. The breaks cannot be used to go on vacation if a student has a school commitment, or community sport scheduled.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said that most importantly, the board needed to make a decision and stick with it. Both calendar options had benefits and drawbacks, he said, but shifting the community around every calendar year needed to stop.
Board member Brad Wheeler recalled that while driving around in west Cobb this summer, the support for the balanced calendar shocked him.
Two parents spoke about the calendar during the public comment part of the meeting, garnering shouts and applause from the audience.
Jennifer Fink, who has three children in the school district, said the importance for students to get summer jobs, relax and travel with their families in the summer was crucial to their development and opportunities.
Parent Sarah Lyons urged the board to make a decision with the students in mind, not Six Flags over Georgia.
“You owe parents, teachers and students. Promise there will be no more changes mid-cycle,” she pleaded.
Cobb Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Connell said earlier this week that since the education SPLOST that funds capital improvements for the school district is directly tied to sales tax revenue, it may be prudent for the school board to consider delaying the vote on the school calendar until more data on the potential economic impact of an earlier school start date can be determined.
Lindsey Burruss, spokesperson with Cobb Travel and Tourism, said her organization “conservatively” estimates that a one-week earlier start to the school year would carve nearly $21 million from Cobb’s travel and tourism industry.
This would mean about $210,000 less in SPLOST collections for the school system during that one-week period, Burruss said.
Calendars adopted by school board
First day: Aug. 4, 2014
Fall break: Sept. 15 – 19, 2014
Thanksgiving: Nov. 24 – 28, 2014
Winter holiday: Dec. 22, 2014 – Jan. 5, 2015
Spring break: April 6 – 10, 2015
Last day: May 21, 2015
First day: Aug. 3, 2015
Fall break: Sept. 21 – 25, 2015
Thanksgiving: Nov. 23-27, 2015
Winter holiday: Dec. 21, 2015 – Jan. 4, 2016
Winter break: Feb. 15 – 19, 2016
Spring break: April 4 – 8, 2016
Last day: May 25, 2016