In May, the Alabama Legislature passed the Flexible School Calendar Act. The law extends the summer breaks for Alabama schools by two weeks in an effort to generate more tax revenue from tourism dollars.
The law forces school systems to start the year no earlier than two weeks before Labor Day and to end by Memorial Day. However, the calendar for each school district must have either 180 instructional days or 1080 hours of class time.
School systems can either shorten holidays or extend school hours. For example, some districts have decided to meet for 177 instructional days and make each school day a few minutes longer, allowing them to meet the 1,080 hours guideline.
Like most school districts in the state, both the Walker County and Jasper City school systems had already approved school calendars for the 2012-2013 year and were forced to rearrange them to comply with the law.
Now, students attending Jasper City schools will return from Christmas break three days earlier than expected, on Jan. 3.
“It wasn’t a big change, but we did have to adjust it,” said Superintendent Robert Sparkman.
The Walker County Board of Education also voted to shorten the district’s holidays to meet the requirements of the new law.
Superintendent Jason Adkins said the school system’s Christmas break will now be 9 days instead of two weeks, and its Thanksgiving break will be two days instead of five.
The law only affects the 2012-2013 school year.
Like most superintendents throughout the state, both Adkins and Sparkman said the bill is far from flexible.
“The main thing is that, if it comes a snow storm or something, that’s really going to hurt you,” Adkins said.
The sponsor of the bill, Randy Davis R-Daphne, estimates that it will generate around $22 million in tax revenue by keeping tourists at the beach longer. The Legislative Fiscal Office, however, estimates the law will have no impact on the state’s budgets.
Sparkman said he is doubtful the law will generate any significant revenue.
“I think it’s an unknown,” he said. “It really is a wait and see type of situation.”
Adkins said that, considering the shortfalls in the education budget for the 2012-2013 school year, the school calendar issue was a minor frustration. He said the Walker County School System could have lost the funding for as many as 40 teachers.
“There’s been a lot of controversial issues on education, and, at the end of the day, I commend the local leaders and the ones in Montgomery for their role in making this budget as good as it was,” he said.
Alabama lawmakers passed the $5.4 billion education budget on May 16. Though it was 3.7 percent less than this year’s budget, it did not require teacher lay offs or larger class sizes.