Huntsville's city school board is considering a calendar for the 2014-2015 school year which is a stark departure from the state-imposed calendar of the current school year.
The board started consideration of a proposed new calendar at its work session Thursday night.
The proposed schedule would start classes on Aug. 5, more than two weeks earlier than the current calendar does.
It also allows for a fall break, a full week off for Thanksgiving and two weeks for Christmas and New Year's.
"I'm just excited that we can set our own calendar and not have it mandated to us by the legislature," said Elisa Ferrell with the Huntsville Council of PTAs. "I think that's wonderful."
The 2013-2014 school calendar is dictated by state law which critics said was too much of a concession to tourism dependent regions of the state who profit from a longer summer tourism season and longer availability of student workers. It prohibits classes from beginning earlier than Aug. 19, which created a tight squeeze as schools struggled to fit the required 180 class days into a school year, creating challenges for families.
"They hated the old calendar," said School Board President Laurie McCaulley. "They hated the old structure. They like the earlier start date because they get to accommodate all the things they want to do with their families."
The state's legal requirement for school calendars expires for the 2014-2015 school year, giving local districts new leeway to set their own schedules.
School district representatives sait Huntsville schools have been in contact with their counterparts in the Madison County and Madison city school systems who want to similarly adjust their calendars.
Huntsville school superintendent Casey Wardynski acknowledged that once the state legislature reconvenes in the new year, it may again seek to force a later school start date. But by then, he said, it would have been obvious for months what school systems like Huntsville wanted their calendars to be. "It's now clear what these three school systems plan to do," said Wardynski. "I think the other systems are moving towards early presentation to their boards. If the boards approve it, now you've essentially got the state government intervening and undoing things local school systems did."
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