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JLeslie's avatar

Why do schools start so early now?

Asked by JLeslie (47245 points ) August 5th, 2012

Some schools in the US start in early to mid August now. Back in the day almost all of them started the day after Labor Day (first week in September for those of you who are not American). I know why schools used to all start after Labor Day. Primarily because of the harvest. What I don’t understand is the logic behind starting school in August.

Here in the Memphis area it just makes no sense to me. It must cost more to air condition the schools this time of year compared to having school extend a few weeks later in June? There is a school in a town about 30 minutes from Memphis that does year round, still the same amount of school day though. But, that is another topic.

Some states have reverted back to after labor day after trying it in August. Michigan is one, because they realized starting in August hurt their tourism business. Many Michiganders vacation within the state, and if kids are back in school the family is not travelling. Plus, people who had summer businesses would have to cut their summer short to put their children in school. But, who had the brilliant idea to try starting in August anyway? And, why? There must be some good reasons, because a lot of communities do it now.

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19 Answers

Mr_Paradox's avatar

This is to try to get in a few more days before the winter starts and the snow days begin.

Nullo's avatar

Possibly an effort to bring up the standard of education, but more likely for @Mr_Paradox‘s reason, that it allows for more snow days without cutting into the next summer vacation.
Also possible that it’s to move us by inches into year-round school. They can take our lives, but never take our summer vacation!

JLeslie's avatar

@Mr_Paradox We did it even in FL, so that seems unlikely. Across the whole south winter usually, not always, isn’t a big deal until January. Plus, as I said, some of the most northern states went back to after Labor day for tourism. And, in my opinion up north memorial through labor day made sense also because that was when the pools would open. Those two holidays are pretty good at delineating when the warm weather is here.

@Nullo How would it bring up the standard of education? I don’t think it really changes the school year to be more year round, because school ends in May instead of June in those school districts. There are schools as I mentioned above that are year round, their summer break is about a month, compared to other breaks between terms that are two weeks.

Nullo's avatar

@JLeslie If one assumes that the problem with the modern education system is that there isn’t enough time spent in schools (which I do not, but have met people who do) then the obvious solution is to extend the amount of time spent in school.
I was actually being facetious; I should have made that more clear.

For now, until I get some actual policy data, I’m going to assume that it’s because the schools are run by evil alien lizards. :P

cookieman's avatar

My daughter goes back to school the last week of August. Her school does it to hedge their bets against snow days, which are quite common here in New England (except, of course, for last winter when we had not a single snow day).

It’s fine with me. I wish they went year-round with two to three week breaks every three months. Ten solid weeks off in the Summer just doesn’t work for working families and kids that need structure. And I’m not about to fork out $200—$500/week for day camp just to keep her engaged. So we have family that pitches in, and we try to schedule a week or two off in the summer, but by August, all involved parties – including my daughter – are itching for school to start.

JLeslie's avatar

@Nullo The school year is still 180 days in almost every town in America. They are starting earlier and ending earlier.

@cprevite Are you saying where you live they have added snow days? I’m 44 years old and when I went to school in MD and NY we had 5 days padded in for snow back then.

Some northern schools get a week off in February and a shorter christmas break, which makes more sense to me since it snows more in February, and it breaks up the year a little more so parents can travel maybe when prices are not ridiculously high. Unless they try to travel on Presidents day of course. Anyway, February is when I want to get out of Dodge. By then January freezing cold weather has pissed me off, and the snow is usually starting to fall.

jrpowell's avatar

I went to a year round school when I was in the fifth grade in San Diego. I loved it. A three month break usually ended up with me being bored out of mind. I loved getting a month off every three months.

At least at my school there was a rotation. The school didn’t shut down. Kids had different breaks. So teachers didn’t get a break but we also didn’t get the breaks with all our friends. Some would be in school while I was off.

Personally, I would rather no breaks at all now that I am old and see the mess they make.

cookieman's avatar

@JLeslie: There have been winters with so much snow, they’ve gone over the 2–5 snow days built into the regular schedule. They therefore, had to go longer into June.

So instead, they now begin the last week of August.

cookieman's avatar

Also, I should add, she goes to a Catholic school that has a handful of religious days off that public schools do not – so they have to accommodate those also.

JLeslie's avatar

@cprevite We went over a couple times when I was in school to. So, now the school your child attends has what? 8–10 snow days? Do you think starting in August is favorable to extending June? If so, why do you like it better? Is it usually already getting cold in late August where you live? Anyway, last week of August is less extreme than what happens in other communities. My county they start today, August 6. I live in a 4 season climate. It will be hot as blazes the next 4 weeks. Probably 90–105 every day. Autumn is in November. Do the public schools where you live wait until after Labor Day?

@bkcunningham I skimmedthe link, thank you for it. It looks like it says there is conflicting evidence about whether a longer year is a good idea regarding student learning. Was there something that stood out to you? I didn’t read the whole thing.

Plus, I am not talking about a longer year, I am asking about starting 2–3 weeks earlier in August and ending 2–3 weeks earlier in May, instead of June. Additional snow days maybe make sense, but just starting earlier for snow doesn’t to me. A year round school year with two week breaks sounds much better to me then the regular school year for teachers and families, because it makes vacations more flexible for parents work schedules, and supposedly kids retain information better, but that is not what I am talking about on this particular Q. I think colder climates it makes more sense to wait until September, I think just the opposite of what seems to be being done.

@johnpowell But the year was still 180 days right? Plus or minus 5 days.

hug_of_war's avatar

My high school did this and I believe one reason was so we could take our finals when we were “fresh” in december right before break instead of a few weeks later when we trying to get back into the groove after christmas break. Another reason is to give more time for test preparation (here we have the ohio graduation test) and also for the advanced placement tests, since those happen in early may. I think another advantage is kids start to get really antsy when it is late may/june and they are still in school when the weather gets really nice. I went to a college where our finals took place during the first full week of june and it is harder.

JLeslie's avatar

@hug_of_war The ansy June thing makes sense to me. Oh, the semester ends after Christmas break with the Labor day start? I had not remembered that. That makes sense too, if the early start means the semester ends before Christmas now? I went to a university that started around September 22! Not that I was really talking about universities on the Q, but since you brought it. My unversity was trimesters though, so the term ended by Christmas. I thought it was ridiculous they were still on trmesters, they switched to sememster fnally some time in the 90’s I think. And, now start the last week of August I think also.

cookieman's avatar

@JLeslie: Public schools do, to the best of my knowledge, start on the Tuesday after Labor Day.

We have the same problem with heat. It will likely still be in the 80s and humid the last week of August (when my daughter goes back). What’s worse, her school was built in the mid-1800s – so there is no air conditioning.

I’d be fine with them staying later into June should they eat up their snow days, but alas they’ve decided on the early start instead.

gailcalled's avatar

The lower school, middle and upper schools here also start on the Tuesday after Labor Day.

JLeslie's avatar

@cprevite I think a lot of decisions are made about education that make no sense. But, I am no expert of course, just me being a side line lay person shouting at the coach. I don’t think most educators or parents really look at studies or dissect correlations and causations. They just get in their heads what they think is true about something. Schools have been moving the year earlier into August for about 20 years now, and it doesn’t seem like America is competing much better on the world scene. But, I have only limited knowledge on these things. I hope to read over @bkcunningham document more thoroughly later today.

gailcalled's avatar

Often, lay persons on the side lines who shout at the coach are removed from the premises; at least that was the case when I used to attend uncountable jr. and hs lacrosse, field hockey, soccer and track and field events.

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled Sure, that’s why I ask the question, to see what I might be misunderstanding or missing. If the team keeps losing someone has to do something though to critique the coach, parents, or kids. Doesn’t have to be losing, it could just be making things inconvenient for the family that has no benefit for the kids. I have read studies regarding homework, school start times regarding what time in the morning to start the day, pre k education, and others, and it seems a lot of schools stubbornly ignore the research on some of these. I never have researched August starts though.

gailcalled's avatar

” I never have researched August starts though.”

@JLeslie; That would be an interesting project to use as a corollary to your question.

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