Bill wants school districts to pick start dateSubmitted: 09/13/2013
Story By Adam Fox

RHINELANDER - September means the start of school for kids in the Northwoods.

State law requires schools to start after Labor Day. But some state legislators think school districts should pick the start day.

Crandon Elementary Principal Jamee Belland believes it would give her district more flexibility.

"I think in this area we would maybe move the start day up a little bit," Belland said.

The law, along with snow days, usually pushes the school year well into June. An earlier start would fix that. Belland thinks it would also help students prepare for state required tests.

"The PALS test already starts on Monday," Belland said. "First grade has to give that test and then within another week kindergarten and the other grades fall in line, so it's early to be testing to where maybe a few more weeks would give us ample time."

But tourist based businesses worry they would lose teenage workers during the busiest part of the season. Republican State Rep. Rob Swearingen also owns a dinner club outside of Rhinelander. He thinks a change would hurt businesses.

"We really only have that eight weeks to make hay," Swearingen said. "So when you take that second or third week potentially out of our workforce it really is a struggle."

Republican Sen. Jim Ott introduced the bill. He believes it won't hurt tourism because elected school boards would make the changes.

"Changing the law would not require that schools to start before September 1st," Ott said. "It would just simply give the local school board the right to start whenever they wanted to."

But many business would rather have their workers in late August than early June. Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lara Reed fears tourists might not be around if a cold spring stretches into summer.

"Weather and never knowing, that thought kind of makes you a little nervous to think about shifting it that direction," Reed said.

The bill sits in the Wisconsin State Assembly Tourism Committee. Many businesses hope it goes no further than that.

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