EDITORIAL – School in early August? Not here in South Florida

There’s an old saying on hurricanes that starts like this: “June-too soon. July-stand by. August-it must. September-remember.” While the October and November portions of that old rhyme may be null and void thanks to the record-setting 2005 hurricane season, there is no doubt that August brings the ideal climate conditions for the formation of these destructive forces of nature.

But the heat, humidity and overall mugginess that make for the perfect storm are less than ideal for the start of the academic year.School days may be canceled as a result, either resulting in a loss of the day, or attempting to tack on additional school days at a less than ideal point in the year-more on that to follow. This is a main reason why schools in South Florida should not consider moving the first day of school (in Broward County, in particular, the date could be as early as Aug. 9), but it is not the only one.

In a Feb. 5 Miami Herald story, Lisa Riggi, a parent in Broward, explained that she planned to petition an early August start because, “We don’t have summers for our kids anymore.” This would be of particular concern if additional school days were tacked on to the end of spring semester. While some may argue that a shorter summer could be a necessary step toward improving FCAT scores, a longer summer generally allows for more time for students to actually better themselves: pick up books for leisure, take classes or travel.

There are other advantages to the current mid- to late-August start dates. For one, the fall semester fits perfectly in, with finals being completed just before winter break begins. It also keeps Florida in line with much of the Midwest and Northeast, where many schools begin in late August or early September anyway. And the intense heat can make for an energy-draining school day-and that isn’t even including the toll that actual scholastics and athletics take on students.

If South Florida wants to maintain a healthy schedule that benefits teachers, students and parents, moving the start date for school to early August is a giant step backward.