Meridian Star

January 8, 2014

Officials preparing for later start for 2014-15 school term

By Ida Brown /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Mississippi schools will start the 2014-15 school term later this year. And city and county school officials are working to make the process easier for everyone.

    A new law — passed in 2012 — provides school districts can start no earlier than the third Monday in August (Aug. 18), beginning with the 2014-15 school term. Mississippi school districts are required to provide 180 days of instruction, which would likely push the next school year into June.

    The law was crafted to boost tourism spending by encouraging a longer summer. A 2010 Gulf Coast Business Council study predicted the later openings would increase tourism spending in the state by $100 million.

    Meridian and Lauderdale County school districts have not yet established their start dates.

     "As we are preparing for the 2014-15 school year and implementing a later start date, we think it is extremely important to involve our teachers in the process," said Dr. Amy Carter, assistant superintendent of Student Services for Meridian Public School District.

     "We are surveying our teachers to gain their insight into exactly how the calendar should be structured given the new guidelines. Once we receive their feedback, we will develop the calendar and present it to the board of trustees for final approval," Carter said.

    Lauderdale County School District Superintendent Randy Hodges said among concerns of his district's teachers about the later date is its impact on end-of-semester testing.

    "It would put the end of the semester tests after Christmas break," Hodges said. "All the stake holders – principals, teachers, students, parents – would rather go through the first semester tests before Christmas rather than having a two-week break and coming back and testing afterwards."

    Another concern expressed by school districts statewide is that teachers would not get a full month's pay in August because of the later start. State legislatures are working to correct this.

    "We are eagerly anticipating the state legislature's decision regarding how the late start will effect teachers pay in August," Carter said. "However, we will do everything we can to make sure the MPSD teachers receive a full month of pay."

     Hodges said if lawmakers do not come up with a viable solution, some adjustments will have to be made.

    "We have one option of working 10 August days; we have to have 16 working days, so we could have staff development all up front – which would be six staff development days in the beginning, rather than throughout the year," he said.

    Hodges added that the later school start day may also require an adjustment in holidays.