SPS schedule change will bring students back to campus before Labor Day

Published 8:30 pm Monday, March 18, 2024

In a 5-2 vote, Suffolk Public Schools approved a change to the school calendar that will have students returning to campuses before Labor Day beginning with the 2024-2025 school year. Schools will return from summer break on Monday, August 26, 2024, and school will end on June 6, 2025.

Board Members DawnMarie Brittingham and Tyron Riddick voted in opposition. 

The vote follows a community survey and town halls conducted by Board Chair Karen Jenkins, Vice Chair Heather Howell, Board Member Kimberly Slingluff, as well as Brittingham and Riddick as a key topic amongst constituents. Ahead of the vote, Riddick discussed the impact of the schedule change and questioned if SPS has the manpower to address the challenges.

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“I understand that we want to be like the regions, but I think we are rushing into something. I believe our guidance counselors will already be swamped with preparing for graduation at the high school level, preparing for SOLs and rapid retakes… and let alone the building of new scheduling, but then to also task guidance and our [Special Education Department] SPED department with updating all IEPs(Individualized Education Program) is not considerate of the workload,” Riddick said. “And there were several divisions that I spoke to who are going through this problem now where staff is frustrated because now you have to go back and update all of this information.”

Speaking on her feedback from her town hall, Brittingham noted that “many families” are not prepared for the 2024-25 school year change.

“There were a handful of people that were in favor of it, but for the majority of the people that I spoke to, were not ready or prepared or affirming that starting early in the 2024-25 school year was what they would like to see happen,” Brittingham said. “Additionally, conversation was taken up about the fact that many of our high school students have summer jobs and many of their summer jobs go into Labor Day weekend…”

Board Chair Karen Jenkins spoke of a mixed reception of the schedule at her town hall but noted a teacher’s positive response of students starting earlier to get a preview of the school year, then taking a break before going back.

“With the amount that I had at my town hall, and I am grateful and I am thankful for all you who had your town halls and for everyone who showed up, but we also have the data from the survey which I think it leaned toward starting this year,” Jenkins said. “All your concerns which are some of my same concerns are valid, but if we’re going to look at the survey and the data from that, we have to make our decisions with that as well as our town hall.”

As a non-agenda speaker, Suffolk resident Kevin Hudgins expressed that the new schedule would be a “major change to a lot of people,” emotionally noting his own son’ medical emergency that occurred last August.

“Just to bring it home, I always like to make things relatable so that we remember that these are real people. Last August, my son had a major medical event. As a family, we have gone on vacation the last two weeks of August ever since he was born. That event almost took his life, and we have not been able to go on that vacation. And when my nine-year-old son said ‘Daddy can we go next year?’ I said ‘Absolutely,’ and we booked that trip that night,” he said. “Let’s just make sure that we’re not going too fast. 2025-26 isn’t that far away. We can certainly delay things one more year.”

Following the meeting, Hudgins commented that while he and his family are positive about an early start date, they feel it’s too soon to make a decision.

“As far as the back-to-school day, we support it. We don’t have a problem with it, we just feel like it’s too quick. We feel like there’s lots of Disneyland vacations and cruises and beach house vacations and sporting events that have been scheduled nine, 10, 12 months in advance because you have to,” he said. “It’ll be tough for these kids after this. Vacations, they’ve earned that time. These kids work hard, and you tell them, ‘Enjoy your summer,’ and to have to possibly tell my nine-year-old, ‘We gotta cut it in half. We can only go one week.’ That’s going to be tough.”

For more information on the pre-labor day start, go to spsk12.net.