Clarendon senator wants option to start school earlier

Bill would let boards choose as early as 2nd Monday in August

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If one Sumter County lawmaker has his way, public schools may start earlier next year.

District 36 State Sen. Kevin Johnson introduced legislation to this year's South Carolina General Assembly that would allow school boards to choose an opening date for students to be as "early as the second Monday in August."

The provision in Senate Bill 823, also sponsored by state Sen. Mike Fanning, D-Great Falls, would take effect next year.

"I was on the school board for 12 years, and I just really feel that those types of decisions are best to be made by the school board," Johnson said.

The Manning Democrat said starting earlier or later may be better suited for certain areas of the state. Myrtle Beach, for example, may like to start later still so high school students can continue summer jobs and "help finish out the tourism season, so starting earlier may not work for them like it may work for my district in Clarendon County."

Districts may like the appeal of an earlier start date so the entire first semester can be completed, including testing, so students can go on winter break and not have to study for final exams.

Johnson and Fanning also proposed changes to the South Carolina 1976 law that made a "uniform start date for public schools" to allow for what would be next year's possible early starts.

Senate Bill 826 would delete language requiring the start date for public schools to be "not before the third Monday in August, except for schools operating on a year-round modified school calendar."

The code would still require 190 days of school a year and three professional development days for teachers, which may be make-up inclement weather days.

The bills are being examined by the Senate Committee on Education.