Earliest ever start to school raises question: Will kids show up?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 10:52pm

With Metro set to begin school Wednesday Aug. 1 — the earliest it ever has — the district has upended years of traditional mid-August and September starts, raising a fundamental issue that will be answered Wednesday:

Will the kids show up?

“The big question is, how many kids get on the bus or walk to school tomorrow,” MNPS spokeswoman Meredith Libbey told The City Paper.

Habits are hard to break. And word isn’t always easily spread, especially in a district that has a sizeable percentage of students who come from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Months ago, Metro school officials launched a campaign to promote awareness of Metro’s early start, which is the key element of its newly adopted balanced calendar.

“That has been a charge that I’ve had since last March,” Libbey said, adding that the district has partnered with various community organizations to communicate the message. “We think the word is out there.”

Until the mid-1970s, Metro started school after Labor Day. The district then shifted to a mid-August start, which it used for more than three decades.

The latest move comes following a narrow 5-4 vote last August in which the school board defeated Director of Schools Jesse Register’s recommendation to begin school on July 25. The proposal would have required $20 million in additional funding.

Register had proposed it as his first choice, and the Aug. 1 as a fallback balanced calendar if dollars weren’t available. Leading up to the vote, Register repeatedly made the case that MNPS is lagging behind others in terms of classroom time.

In the end, the majority of school board members agreed with that premise — but not enough to approve what some called an “unfunded mandate.” After it failed, the board unanimously signed off on the less audacious Aug. 1 start.

With this year’s balanced calendar, longer fall and spring breaks are built in to accommodate the shortened summer recess. So-called “intersession periods” are in the fall and spring, allowing students to receive enrichment opportunities if they choose. The alternative July start carved out a longer fall intersession.

The new calendar increases students’ school days from 173 to 176. The failed July 25 option — pushed by education, parent and Hispanic advocacy groups to combat lost learning over the summer — would have brought the total days to 180 and set aside 10 additional days for the professional development of teachers.

12 Comments on this post:

By: G.Scout on 8/1/12 at 7:15

"Will the kids show up?" It blows me away that this is even a question in this article, much less part of the headline. When did parents become so unaware of their children's school schedule that they wouldn't know when school STARTS? It's pathetic. Plus, this doesn't even make sense. So what if it is an early start -- parents need to know the first day of school no matter WHEN it is. “We think the word is out there.”???? Wouldn't it be out there if they were starting on --say -- the 13th? Please, what is the point here?

By: jwk6179 on 8/1/12 at 8:00

I don't have children in Metro Schools but I've known since the end of the last school year that Metro Schools start back today. The reporter also stated the " district has upended years of traditional mid-August and September starts". When was the last time Metro Schools started in September? I've lived in the Nashville since 1986 and Metro schools have always started in Mid-August or earlier since then. It reminds me of former Metro Schools spokesperson Craig Oglesby always stating that parents need to get their children in school when school starts and not wait until after Labor Day for them to go back when it had been at least 20 YEARS since Metro schools had started after Labor Day.

By: nester on 8/1/12 at 8:15

I've got to say this is a really poorly written article. Seriously? Parents won't check when school starts and kids might "miss"? Or the flap about non-English speaking kids not showing because somehow that must mean they don't understand and won't show up? Not cool.

By: G.Scout on 8/1/12 at 8:26

nester -- totally agree. This is a very poorly written article in the first place. It has no point really and leans toward an odd bias that somehow non-English speaking people can't figure out when the first day of school is. ???? Very odd to me overall.

By: doodah47 on 8/1/12 at 9:21

There may be a few parents who keep their kids home at the beginning, and they are likely to be the ones who keep them home a lot during the year. Most sane parents are anxiously awaiting the beginning of school to get the kids out of the house, and the earlier the better. I don't believe the author of this article is a parent.

By: Left-of-Local on 8/1/12 at 9:30

Better question: When will the School Board pry their heads from their anuses?

Starting before Tax Free Weekend? Not adjusting the magnet selection schedule to have more gap time between the final pull and the fist day? School starting the day before election day? On the first day of the month, when many professionals may work late to close books on the 31st?

NEWSFLASH, jackasses: You are not an island.

By: modern4life on 8/1/12 at 9:33

My experience in observing some Metro schools is this: They waste too much class time and really have a self-serving need for an extended calendar. I've seen teachers show pop (non-educational) movies in class and generally waste kids' time while they have to attend to paperwork. I have also seen a great build up to the TCAPs and then spend the remaining month of school goofing off with very little instruction. It's all about the test, not about the learning.

By: syslviahix on 8/1/12 at 9:55

It blows my mind that some classrooms still do not have air conditioning working. When children have been used to being in air conditioning, for the most part, then I think it is unreasonable to expect them to get off to a good start with no air! Not to mention the teachers trying to hold students attention!

By: TITAN1 on 8/1/12 at 11:06

It has been awhile, but I graduated from Maplewood in Nashville in 1973. We would start the day after Labor Day and get out on June the 8th. It seems they start earlier every year.. Now they use "balanced" schedule. I wouldn't have liked it, but my daughter teaches in Nashville and she seems to like it.

By: hvillenutcase on 8/1/12 at 12:51

TITAN1, We didn't start before Labor Day until 77 when quite a few counties missed like a month of school due to snow. I would have to ask my father when Metro started earlier as 73 is just a little too much for me to remember. Of course I sometimes wish I could go back to that time and drive the Maplewood Band kids nuts, okay they are older than me.

On the flip side I wonder if anyone in Nashville realizes how much more this is actually costing the school system and cit just in electricity. Not going to go into fuel cost and other odds and ends that increase with warmer weather. Just saying.

By: NewYorker1 on 8/1/12 at 2:08

These poor kids. I don't think I've ever seen such a screwed up school system as the one here in Nashville. Our tax dollars going to waste on such crap.

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