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Other Views: Let school districts decide start date

It's an age-old question in North Dakota: When should public schools start classes in the fall?

School districts currently set their own calendar, and the state Department of Public Instruction's position is that the decision should be determined at the local level.

But a group of parents is trying to change that. The group plans to circulate petitions to put an initiated measure on the November 2014 ballot that would force schools to begin classes after Labor Day. Their argument is the same as it has always been: A later school start date would be good for tourism and for families wanting to enjoy summer weather.

Our position remains the same: We believe school calendars should be created with students' learning in mind, not geared toward tourism.

Having said that, we know that all sorts of considerations are taken into account when creating a school calendar, including schedules for extracurricular activities, holidays and other school breaks. But the bottom line is that a schedule must be about what's best for students and faculty, and we believe that decision is best made at the local level. We don't believe the state needs a law to tell Kenmare or Garrison or Velva when they can or can't start classes.

Besides, later school start dates naturally mean later school ending dates, so any extra days of tourism gained in August will be lost in May. If school starts after Labor Day, it will likely end after Memorial Day, so what's the advantage for families wanting to go on vacation? We see none.

Sports schedules wouldn't likely change, because football season is determined largely by weather. So a school would be forced to start school after Labor Day could conceivably play two or more football games before classes start. Does that make sense? No.

The state does not need to create a new law forcing school districts to start school after Labor Day.