Lake of the Ozarks State Park

Swimmers at Lake of the Ozarks State Park in a 2009 image. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

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JEFFERSON CITY — Although calendars are already set for this year, school districts across Missouri will have to start two weeks later in 2020.

In action Thursday, Gov. Mike Parson bucked concerns voiced by local school administrators and signed legislation barring districts from setting an opening date for the school term that is more than 14 calendar days prior to the first Monday in September.

For this year, most St. Louis area school districts are set to start on Tuesday, Aug. 13. The Eureka-based Rockwood school district starts on Monday, Aug. 12, while the Ferguson-Florissant school district starts Thursday, Aug. 15.

Next year, however, the earliest districts can start will be Aug. 26, giving students two more weeks of summer in an attempt to boost tourism spending in the state.

The legislation was included in a package of school-related changes to state law that moved through both chambers on the final day of the Legislature’s annual session in May.

Supporters, including Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, argued that earlier school start dates are affecting the tourism industry as more families end their summer vacations in early August.

Among those favoring the prohibition were amusement park operators and lobbying groups representing hotel owners, campground owners and river outfitters.

“Everyone down here is for it. It helps tourism,” said Misty Barton, an employee at Jadwin Canoe Rental, which rents canoes, kayaks and rafts on the Current River in southern Dent County.

To offset the loss of days, Barton said school districts could shorten the time off they take around Christmas and New Year's.

The measure was sponsored by Rep. Jeff Knight, a Lebanon Republican whose district is south of Lake of the Ozarks.

"With schools starting so early, some of the places that cater to tourists were having to shut down because their teenage workers all had to quit to go back to class," Knight said. 

Rep. Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia, said the extended summer will allow families to spend more time together.

"To me, this is a pro-family bill," said Pollitt, whose district includes the Missouri State Fairgrounds.

Opponents included the Missouri School Boards’ Association, which said the decision should be made locally.

An early start can mean finishing a semester and squeezing in final exams before winter break. It allows more learning to take place before standardized tests are given in the spring. And it can prevent holding classes in June to make up for snow days after a harsh winter.

“Obviously we don’t like the erosion of local control,” said Melissa Randol, executive director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association. “But, other components of the legislation were important to schools.”

The legislation is House Bill 604.


Local attractions perfect for entertaining kids in the summertime

Kurt Erickson • 573-556-6181

@KurtEricksonPD on Twitter

kerickson@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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