Columbia County school board members will meet in their regular semi-monthly session Tuesday, Sept. 13 in Evans. One of the likely topics is the idea of, yet again, asking parents when the school year should start.
This tiresome debate, which continues to drag on only because those on the repeatedly losing side refuse to admit defeat, became nauseatingly re-invigorated after the death of Lakeside High School freshman Chelsea Collins - even though the coroner says late-summer heat and outdoor activity likely had nothing to do with her untimely passing.
The effort to revisit the school schedule is driven by a handful of well-meaning parents calling themselves Concerned Parents of Columbia County. For the most part they've acted responsibly - though they've certainly done nothing to rein in the fringe that has given the largely grassroots group a hysterical aura.
When calm deliberation is needed, the reaction from School Superintendent Tommy Price is too timid. "I've received a few complaints about the calendar since the student's death," Price told a reporter. "But everyone is talking about it now, so it seems like a good time to go ahead and gauge what the parents want."
What? Discussing the calendar now only reinforces the idea of a link with Chelsea's death. Thank goodness School Board Chairman Regina Buccafusco has a better perspective. "It bothers me that people are connecting the two," she says. "It bothers me that people are taking advantage of such a horrible situation to push their own feelings and desires."
Yes, at some point this question needs to be settled. But no amount of surveying will end the debate as long as early start opponents refuse to admit they've lost.
Remember: The school system heavily surveyed parents before it ever changed the calendar in the first place. Kimberly Richard, a parent who opposes the early school start, nonetheless admitted in a recent letter to the editor just how thorough that survey was. While 5,163 respondents agreed with the early school start and mid-semester breaks, she wrote, only 986 disagreed with the revised calendar.
That's just 15 percent opposition to the calendar, barely a statistical blip. But even such a tiny wheel can get pretty squeaky.
That squeaking is what the school board is hearing right now. Humoring the early-start opponents with yet another survey may grease their goodwill for a while, but at some point Price and the school board must use the will of the less-noisy majority to reinforce their backbones and declare the issue settled.
If the calendar opponents don't like it, let them stake their future on the only survey that matters: The ballot box.
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