Friday, September 23, 2005

Where Have All The Summers Gone?

It looks as though there is a possibility that Florida lawmakers may soon pass The Summertime Restoration Act of 2005:
Parents who grumbled that there ought to be a law against school starting at the beginning of August might just get their way.

Two state representatives -- Hollywood Democrat Eleanor Sobel and Hialeah Republican Ralph Arza -- said Thursday they are considering filing separate bills that would mandate a later start date.

'Whenever I speak, I talk about the beginning of school. I say, 'What do you think about starting the day after Labor Day?' '' said Sobel, whose bill will propose that change. "They just love it. They applaud me.''

''We're excited,'' said Sherry Sturner of Golden Beach, who formed Save Our Summers-Florida, a grass-roots group that has collected nearly 1,000 signatures for a later start date. "That's what we want.''

Schools in Broward and Dade started Aug. 8 this year, a week later than in 2004 and two weeks later than the year before.

''It really just is the middle of summer,'' said Margot Lazar, a Parkland mother of two who belongs to the group, "I don't see how that's benefiting the children.''

Proponents of a later start date cite hurricane activity, August heat, and family vacations as reasons to wait until September.

And, often, they blame the FCAT -- administered statewide in February and March -- for the early return to class.

District leaders in Broward and Miami-Dade have fought the perception that the high-stakes exam drove them to open school earlier.

''It doesn't have anything to do with the FCAT,'' Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher said at a workshop Thursday.

She said board members wanted to align the district's semesters with college schedules and to have students take their final exams before winter break.

Broward Schools Superintendent Frank Till said the early start date also allowed students more time for other tests, like Advanced Placement. Despite that, Till said he would have ''no big objection'' if the state set a later date.

''I would support them giving us a [uniform] start date, regardless of when it was,'' Till said. He said he'd also like to see all districts use the same holidays.

District leaders in Miami-Dade -- one of the last counties to adopt an early-August start -- favored the changes, as long as they are applied statewide.

''For many reasons, [starting in early August] is just completely wrong: hot weather, hurricanes, family reunions, opportunities to have a real summer as it is traditionally considered in the United States,'' said Miami-Dade School Board member Evelyn Greer. "We're now almost a month earlier than other parts of the country.''
I'm amazed by the audacity of Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher's statement that the early start had "nothing" to do with testing.

I grew-up in Florida, so I've experienced the heat and humidity that is the Florida Summer first-hand. If there was ever a place that needed to have a later school start-date, then this is it.
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