- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) - Beaufort County Schools are asking the state to allow it to start classes in August, a week earlier than state law allows.

But groups who pushed for a state law a decade ago setting the date for the first day of school said an exception could roll back their efforts as many other districts would want to start early.

Beaufort County’s request for a waiver to start the first day of classes on Aug. 10 could be heard this month by the State Board of Education. The board may also wait for an opinion from Attorney General Alan Wilson, The Island Packet of Hilton Head reports (https://bit.ly/1zn4LZf ).

State law doesn’t allow school to start before the first Monday in August, which is Aug. 17 this year. But there is an exception for schools of choice. Beaufort County offers Montessori, arts-infused, language immersion and other choice programs in every school.

“I’m sure one of the problems at the state level is they are afraid to open the floodgates,” said Bill Evans, Beaufort County school board chairman. “I think there are some people who would like to delay making a decision on this as long as possible so they can figure out what to do if they approve our request and the floodgates open.”

As many as 10 other districts have said they may ask for waivers for earlier start dates too, if Beaufort County gets one.

Beaufort County has asked before and been denied, along with York District 1 and Spartanburg District 2. The state board has issued waivers for early start dates to Spartanburg District 7 and McCormick County Schools.

The push for starting school later in August comes from educators who think starting earlier just encourages districts to teach toward standardized tests and from businesses who don’t want to lose tourism money from the coast when students are in school in early August.

In Beaufort County, tourists spend roughly $135 million in August, which is about 12 percent of the region’s yearly revenues, said Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce President Blakely Williams.

“Beaufort County’s economy is dependent on tourism’s success during the peak season,” Williams said. “And taking away this extra week would take money out of taxes as well as other important revenue our businesses need to succeed.”

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Information from: The Island Packet, https://www.islandpacket.com


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