Local boards of education are becoming ever-frustrated with a North Carolina law that puts restrictions on the start and end dates for the school year.

The North Carolina House Education k-12 Committee has five separate bills that would, to various degrees, give local school systems more flexibility to set their own academic calendars. The bills HB106, HB70, HB86, HB63, HB51 are sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans. So far, none been scheduled for consideration by the committee members.

General Statue 115C-84.2 states that school districts may not start “earlier than the Monday closest to August 26” or end “later than the Friday closest to June 11”. The General Assembly passed this legislation in 2004 in an attempt to not interfere with the massive tourism industry across the state. 

New Hanover County

For years, school districts across North Carolina have defied this law and the trend is growing. New Hanover County Public Schools Calendar Committee brought the newly elected board two calendars at their January 10th meeting.  

  • Calendar A: Follows state law and has been used in years past. First-semester finals are after a 16 day Christmas break, and first and second semesters don’t include equal instruction time.  
  • Calendar B: Breaks state law with its first day of classes being August 21st, 2023. First-semester finals take place before Christmas break on December 21st and the semesters include equal instruction time. 

Newly elected Board of Education member Josie Barnhart brought forward a resolution at the January 10th meeting calling on the General Assembly to update state law and give districts more control. The resolution reads in part “New Hanover County Board of Education requests that the North Carolina General Assembly restore local control of school to best meet the unique educational needs and school calendar preferences of the families, educators, military, and businesses in our Community”. 

In April of 2021, the North Carolina House passed HB 376 known as School Calendar Flexibility, which would have restored that local control to the 120 school districts across the state. The bill never made its way to the North Carolina Senate, therefore, was not signed into law. New Hanover County Schools held a special board meeting on January 31st where they officially adopted ‘Calendar A’ in compliance with state law. 

NHCS Board of Education Special Meeting Jan. 31, 2023

J “I think it is important to be responsive to our community’s needs,” Barnhart told Carolina Journal.  “Having the ability to be responsive to the variety of educational pathways we have in New Hanover County will allow more students to be successful… I am proud that our board collectively adopted a formal resolution. As elected officials we should work with other elected officials to make better decisions for our citizens.” 

union county

Union County Public Schools outside of Charlotte passed their 2023-2024 academic year calendar in December in direct defiance of state law with their school year starting August 9th, 2023. The unanimous passage of their calendar now has the district in an active lawsuit from parents who oppose the calendar change.

“These parents are asking for the school board to follow the law,” said Mitch Armbruster, the attorney representing Union County parents Dominique Morrison and Francis Ward.

In response to the lawsuit, a special meeting of the Union County Board was called on January 27th where they reversed that policy. School will start August 28th and end June 7th for students in Union County Public Schools.