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Aberdeen Opens School on August 24; Sioux Falls to Vote on Post-Labor Day Start

Voters in Sioux Falls will decide in April whether to require their schools to start before or after Labor Day. Here in Aberdeen, we aren't getting a post-Labor Day start, but our superintendent is acknowledging that a little later is better:

Because of the way the dates fell on the calendar, the district was able to add a whole week between the final day of the Brown County Fair and the first day of school, Superintendent Becky Guffin told the Aberdeen Public Board of Education at its regular meeting on Monday at the Hub Area Technical School. Usually, the Aberdeen School District starts school the Tuesday after the Brown County Fair.

“The Brown County Fair is a little earlier this summer — it’s Aug. 10-16,” Guffin said. “That would have allowed us to start school shortly after that. We are proposing that we start school on the fourth Monday in August, which would be Aug. 24 for next year. This start date does allow us to enjoy as much summer as we possibly can” [Katherine Grandstrand, "Later Start to School Year Possible in Aberdeen," Aberdeen American News, 2015.02.24].

Hold on, Superintendent Guffin: I wouldn't say August 24 allows us to enjoy "as much summer as we possibly can." It's entirely possible to pack all the school learning we need into the days between Labor Day and Memorial Day, which would leave children free for every day of American cultural summer.

Instead of wondering whether we'll start on the 24th, the 20th, or back in the teens of August, running school between Labor Day and Memorial Day would create consistency for kids and parents. It would bracket the school year with national holidays, emphasizing the importance of school in kids' minds. Aberdeen is nodding in that direction; Sioux Falls, see if you can do better.


  1. Nick Nemec 2015.02.24

    The after Labor Day start used to be state law in SD. I liked it because here on the Nemec Ranch the last part of August and first week of September are the slowest time of year and often the only time we could pack up the kids and take a vacation. We had some fun vacations during the week before Labor Day and the kids got to see interesting places in our country and learn some hands on American history that they would not have seen or learned first hand had school started in mid August.

  2. mike from iowa 2015.02.24

    The weather can be blistering hot after Labor Day,let alone in mid to late August. Why cook your kids anymore than necessary?

  3. Craig 2015.02.24

    Instead of these debates over a start date that may shift plus or minus a couple of weeks, what we should do is transition to year-round school. Studies have shown that a lot of material/knowledge is lost over the extended summer break (aka "brain drain"), and the countries which have year round school consistently outperform those that do not.

    Before you get upset and complain that the kids won't have any free time to be kids or that the teachers will be overworked, keep in mind the actual number of school days doesn't change dramatically. The primary difference is there are several smaller breaks throughout the year rather than one massive two to three month break in the summer.

    Of course I know that won't happen, but if education was in fact the priority I can assure you that year round school would be part of this debate. As it were nobody seems to care one way or another about the education aspect... all I hear are arguments about how moving the start date will impact those kids who are in sports or how it might upset a family vacation.

    Talk about priorities.

  4. Mike B 2015.02.24

    In 2009, President Obama told the American people that we must extend the school year as well as the school day.

    Teachers now spend most of their valuable time preparing the kids not for life but getting them ready to pass a standardized test.

  5. larry kurtz 2015.02.24

    1) middle schools should be eliminated.
    2) high schools should insist on business casual except on Fridays.
    3) women and men in high school should be instructed in separate classrooms.
    4) school boards should have an elected representative from the high school student population
    5) teachers must be union members
    6) districts should have the flexibility to experiment with curricula, including year-round sessions
    7) American Indian languages should meet the world language requirement

  6. TimA 2015.02.24

    I agree Craig, year-round school would cut down on brain drain. It would be a bold step for S.D.

  7. JSR 2015.02.24

    Most schools have between 170 and 180 contact days. Design a calendar which fits around Xmas break where both semesters have a simliar number of days in each. Very hard to do it in the fall semester without starting before Labor Day. Ending a semester at Xmas break just seems to have a more common sense approach vs coming back after Xmas and finishing semester 2 weeks into Jan. Year round school might be an alternative but won't happen in sd. We are to stuck in a rut. Plus how many schools actually have air conditioning . More cost to education. Next thing we will need air conditioned school buses. Whenever school starts we are not going to make everyone happy all the time. One time does not fit all. Leave it up to local boards. If you don't like it there is at least one board seat open every year. Run for office.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.24

    JSR, I understand the urge for symmetry. Aligning semester break and holiday break feels right, and it gives teachers time to recover, grade exams, and gear up for second semester. But I've worked both calendars, and I can get things done under both. In Spearfish, we started later in August, then did semester exams second or third week in January. We could do normal days right before Christmas, more easily work in a holiday movie or other such celebrations and diversions, then come back from Christmas and go hard on review for finals. If teachers need a work day or two to grade finals and write up lesson plans for semester two, school boards can land that semester break around the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

    I'm an atheist. Few things are sacred to me. Democracy and summer make that list. Memorial Day to Labor Day—let August pass unblemished. Let the State Fair have big weekday crowds. Let families stretch that vacation to the end of August. Let us all get serious in September.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.24

    Craig, TimA, I've mentioned to commenters before, and I don't mind reiterating now, that I remain morally opposed to year-round school. Chopping up three months of summer vacation into little one-week or two-week dribs and drabs is awful. Let's go to school, get it done, and then send kids off for that three-month-long symposium in self-education. I got that treasured opportunity for twelve years when I was a kid; I cannot morally take that opportunity away from my daughter or any other child.

  10. larry kurtz 2015.02.24

    There is no reason why teachers couldn't tag-team a year-round curriculum.

  11. larry kurtz 2015.02.24

    Imagine knocking two years off a student's secondary school sentence.

  12. grudznick 2015.02.24

    Mr. kurtz's list of 7 ideas are all good, save one. Number 5 is wrong and bad. It's bad. The teacher's union is silly and ineffective, and only a fool would be a member. We don't want teachers who are fools.

    If it was effective there wouldn't be all this hue and cry about "oh, pay us more, pay us more" now would there? But the other ideas are good.

  13. Joan Brown 2015.02.24

    I have been in favor of year round school since the early 60s when I was taking elementary ed. at General Beadle State Teacher's College. One of the Professors explained how much the kids forget during the three month summer break. At that time it was suggested that there be a one month break in the summer, besides one month off during the holidays, and one month for spring break. As far as the weather being hot, no matter when it starts, in the fall, at least now the classes get dismissed early for hot weather. When I went to school, whether it was in the one room country school, or town school, we attended all day no matter how hot it was. Our town school was small enough that all 12 grades were in one building. The high school occupied 2nd and 3rd stories. Whether or not you were in grade school or high school all of the classrooms had one wall that received full sun for part of the day. Kids now have it quite easy.

  14. larry kurtz 2015.02.24

    Teachers should commandeer the Statehouse and demand that every legislator pass a college entrance exam.

  15. grudznick 2015.02.24

    Ms. Brown, teachers would have to work all year then, but that would give them an opportunity to earn more money. A winning winning idea for everybody.

  16. larry kurtz 2015.02.24

    $20 says Mike Verchio can't pass the GED exam.

  17. larry kurtz 2015.02.24

    $50 says Bob Ewing can't pass it.

  18. grudznick 2015.02.24

    $5 says James Bradford aces it.

  19. grudznick 2015.02.24

    I accept your bet on Mr. Verchio, Lar.

  20. larry kurtz 2015.02.24

    could you present it to him with a plate of crow, please grud?

  21. leslie 2015.02.24

    i like what you find sacred cory.

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