Early school-year starts about to change

By Dennis Minich

Each year, the Community Bank of Raymore’s Harrisonville branch collects school supplies for the Bright Futures program. Last year, enough supplies were collected to help 300 students. This year, the number is down considerably.

Tina Graef, vice president and branch manager in Harrisonville, and also president of the Harrisonville School Board, said she is disappointed with the results this year, but said part of the reason may be the early start of the school year. The deadline for donations was July 23, which fell well ahead of this weekend’s tax-free weekend.

“It makes it tough when the deadline is so early. People really aren’t thinking about school in July, and it was before the tax-free weekend. But with the changes next year, hopefully it will be better,” Graef said.

There was a time when the new school year did not begin until after Labor Day. But during the course of the past three decades, the start of the year has gradually gotten earlier. This year, students in the Harrisonville School District will begin the new year Aug. 14. That trend will change, however, starting next year.

Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, classes can start no earlier than 10 weekdays before Labor Day, meaning the first day possible will be Aug. 24.

Harrisonville Superintendent Paul Mensching said he didn’t really know why the start dates had gotten earlier through the years.

“This is just my opinion, but in some districts they like a longer spring break and that had an impact. Having semester finals before Christmas also became more prominent,” he said.

He also noted air conditioning has changed how people view the school year.

“When I started teaching 26 years ago, it was on the third floor on the south side of an old, all-brick building. I remember those days, but now with air conditioning in every school, it’s not as big of a deal,” he said.

Mensching said the changes next year will create challenges for administrators.

“The school year is still 180 days. You’d like to have 90 before Christmas and 90 after, but you have to make up those 10 days somewhere,” he said.

“It really takes some of the control away from the local districts. It might have an impact on spring break, which may upset family plans. It may push finals until after Christmas. It is like daylight savings, you have to make up for it somewhere.”

Regardless, Mensching said it shouldn’t have too big of an impact on the end of the school year.

“May is May. Kids start thinking about getting away, going swimming and things like that. It’s hard to keep them focused,” he said.

The change in the school year will have some impact on sports, but the Missouri State High School Activities Association addressed some of the issues two years ago.

“They changed the calendar for football, which pretty much dictates things for the other sports. It was to the point that teams were practicing two days in July.

“They changed the calendar so there are only 14 days of practice before the first game, and I think that was a good thing. It was a health issue,” he said.

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