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Michael O’Brien, Published September 28 2013

Letter: ND public school calendars should be left to local control

Whatever happened to local control of our North Dakota public schools? Lately we have read, listened to or watched on TV the petition that is circulating North Dakota to mandate the state’s public schools begin their school year after Labor Day. Think about the fact that if this law is passed, North Dakota schools would not be able to begin their school year until after Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. Keep in mind that each North Dakota school is mandated to have 175 contact days with students. School in June is a very real possibility.

One would think that local school boards in North Dakota have the wisdom to decide when to begin and conclude a school year. We need to keep this decision of when to begin the school year up to the local school boards. These elected officials know firsthand what is in the best interests of their school districts.

We do not have to follow the Minnesota Legislature to make it law to begin our school year after Labor Day. I understand Minnesota businesses’ opposition to starting school before Labor Day. Who will work the Minnesota State Fair?

If we were to begin school after Labor Day, we would be giving up, for instance, better than a week of school to instruct our students. Many North Dakota public schools begin their school year a week or so before Labor Day. The North Dakota State Assessment test for our students is held in October. With so much weight being placed on student achievement, do we want to take a week of education away from our students before this test?

This proposal – the start of the school year after Labor Day – also would affect sports programs. Likely, you would see a shorter sports season because of the late start. There are only so many days to fit in a sports schedule. To verify this fact, give Sherm Sylling, the executive director of the North Dakota High School Activity Association a call at (701) 845-3953. I believe he will discuss with you the distinct possibility of a shorter sports season among other issues that this proposal would affect.

Local control issues need to be left in the hands of the local people you elected to represent you, the citizens. This is a right we should not have to forfeit.


O’Brien is the high school principal/superintendent of Fordville-Lankin, N.D., Public School.