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CMS board decides not to cut summer break short this year

The Gaston County school board approved an Aug. 17 opening, even though state law requires waiting until Aug. 29 this year.
Ann Doss Helms
The Gaston County school board approved an Aug. 17 opening, even though state law required waiting until Aug. 29 this year.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will start classes on Aug. 28, despite district leaders’ talk of defying state law to open earlier.

North Carolina’s school calendar law requires most school districts to wait until late August to start classes. The tourism industry drives that, and many local school boards want more flexibility. Educators say they’d rather start in mid-August to synchronize with community colleges where high school students can take free classes, and get first-semester exams done before winter break.

Board Chair Elyse Dashew said Wednesday she and other board members have watched nearby districts like Gaston, Cleveland, Rutherford and Cabarrus counties decide to open early without state permission. For instance, Gaston brought students back on Aug. 17. Cabarrus plans to bring students back on Aug. 9.

“It is something we’ve been advocating for years. They’ve gone ahead and done it (and) do not seem to have any adverse consequences,” she said.

She said CMS considered following suit but decided this wasn’t the time. This school year ends June 9. District leaders had talked about reopening Aug. 14, which would shorten summer break by about two weeks.

CMS Board member Margaret Marshall said staff needs all the time it can get to “make sure we have time in the summer to get all the HVAC work that’s happening right now, which is so needed, and then opening three new schools this year.”

The board approved a school year that begins Aug. 28, 2023, and ends June 7, 2024.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.