Lee County joins 15 other school

ABC 11 | By Monique John | August 14, 2023

SANFORD, N.C. (WTVD) — More than a dozen school districts are taking a stand against state law by beginning the school year two weeks early. One of those districts is Lee County Schools. Parents, officials and legislators are divided about how to best handle children’s education while still giving them enough time to have some summer fun.

State law says schools should not start school earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26, which this year is Aug. 28. Lee County School Board Chair Sherry-Lynn Womack said the decision to start early was centered on the needs of students, and that the legal start date is arbitrary.

“We just realize that the North Carolina Constitution guarantees every student to a sound, basic education,” Womack said.

Supporters of moving up the first day of school argued it helps children avoid learning loss. They also said the change makes it easier for public schools to partner with colleges for educational programming by syncing up schedules.

However, opponents pointed out that moving up start dates interferes with the tourism industry as it cuts into peak days for family vacations. They also argued it teaches children a bad message about disobeying the law.

“Two weeks shouldn’t matter about cutting into their travel and stuff. They had all summer to do that if they’re going (to) travel. Education — a proper education — is more important than travel, anyway,” said Frank Spruiell of Sanford.

Spruiell said he believes sending his mentee, a student at Bragg Street Academy, back early keeps him occupied in a safe environment.

“I know where he at and I know he not out there in the streets,” Spruiell said.

At this time, the school districts that are going against state law by opening schools early are not facing penalties from the state.

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