By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
What Forsyth County students think of starting the school year later
North Forsyth's student section dressed in sports jerseys for the Raiders' scrimmage Friday, August 11, 2017. - photo by Brian Paglia

Most students are completely in the dark about a potential change to their educational experience.

The Georgia Senate Study Committee on Evaluating the School Year Calendar of Georgia Public Schools met in Dec. 27, 2018, to conclude its evaluation and issue a final report. However, its findings’ consequences for allotting a longer summer could mark the end of three-day weekends, a farewell to fall break, and various cuts to larger breaks in the winter and spring seasons.

The report came from 11 committee members in the fields of government, tourism, travel, state economics and education, all led by state Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), the committee’s chairman.

Despite the committee’s work, students are mostly unaware regarding this shift.

During a random sampling of 100 North Forsyth High School students, 95 percent said they were unaware of the committee’s proposal, while 90 percent of students had never heard of this topic.

“I did not know about these proposals until you told me just now,” said Abby Nolan, a North student.

Controversy over whether or not public schools should push back the start of school to Labor Day has sparked surprise from Forsyth County students.

“I had heard it being a possibility but didn’t realize we had proposed it and were truly considering these changes,” said Ella McCook, a junior at North.

Maggie Sullivan, a senior, was disturbed by the lack of student voices within the Senate Study Committee.

“I feel that these decisions should be made explicit to the students ... since it is going to affect their learning and consequently their futures more than anyone else’s,” Sullivan said.

The report’s response impacts all Georgia public schools. As a community, consider the value that breaks have. Do three-day weekends and student/teacher holidays possess observable benefits for the student body?

Mason Arbeiter said extending summer “would make the school year feel drearier and more repetitive ... and would impact me by hindering options like mission trips during the school year.”

Beyond interrupting the grueling cadence of school, is there a point to be made about salvaging these breaks?

“Eliminating breaks due to the later start of school would negatively affect students,” said Katie Sarfaty, another North student. “Small breaks, such as three-day weekends and built-in teacher work days, allow kids to take a ‘brain break’ and spend much-needed time relaxing while spending time with their families.”

Students questioned the validity of the committee’s proposals. Their findings could eliminate opportunities students have during the school year to explore and travel, serve as missionaries, contribute to the community and interact with family.

Students said they were also concerned about a longer summer’s impact on their academic achievement the following year. Kaitlyn Kosten, another North student, referenced research similar to the “Summer Learning Gap” popularized by Concordia University that showed “idle students” without access to summer learning programs suffer academically once school begins; in a 2012 study, students with access to tutors and educational programs started with a clear advantage.

“Don’t studies show that summer break causes students to struggle in retaining knowledge? Wouldn’t a longer summer make things worse?” Kosten said.