CINCINNATI — Cynthia Colegrove loves just about everything about living in Fairfield and the city's public schools that are educating her four children.
But as her kids complete their fourth steamy week of school, she has one wish.
"Fairfield is a great place to live. We would just like more time to enjoy it instead of starting school in August," Colegrove said.
For fans of a later start to the school year, the Colegroves got off easy by starting on Aug. 20.
Schools in Batesville, Indiana reopened on Aug. 5 — nearly a month earlier than St. Ursula Villa and Summit Country Day, which returned last week. Many others started in mid- to late-August, including Boone County on Aug. 13 and Cincinnati Public on Aug. 19.
"Start in September after Labor day and go until Memorial Day. That's the way it should be," Colegrove said.
A large majority of parents and grandparents who sounded off on WCPO's Facebook page don't like starting in early or mid-August — or in August at all, for some.
"I seriously dislike the early start," Allison Berne Knue wrote on WCPO's Facebook page. "August 5th here in (southeast Indiana). We get longer breaks in the middle, but you can't play outside so long when it's 20 degrees in the winter. I would MUCH rather enjoy the time off in the summer where we can make local plans for some fun."
So why do schools start while daylight is still long and high temperatures are usually in the 80s and 90s?
"Testing, seasonal breaks, length of time for each academic quarter all play a part," said Janet Walsh, Cincinnati Public Schools spokeswoman. "There is a committee of administrators, teacher representatives and parent representatives that conduct annual reviews and recommend the calendar, which is then approved by the (district's school) board."
She said there is no push to change the start date, which has been on or around Aug. 19 for a decade. All CPS schools are now air-conditioned, she confirmed.
Julie Sellers, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers union, said air conditioning has made August start dates more feasible and creates advantages.
"I know that prior to air conditioning the buildings were awfully hot and not always conducive to learning," she said. "The sooner the school year begins the earlier it ends. This gives the entire month of June for summer (school). After the first week of July, it is hard to get students to attend school because of scheduled family events."
Craig Hockenberry, Three Rivers superintendent who took the job in December, wants to push back his district's Aug. 19 start date.
"If we can fit in the hours between Labor Day and Memorial Day, why wouldn't we explore that," he asked.
Hockenberry said that while classrooms are air conditioned, the August heat affects outdoor sports practices, time on the playground and time in hot buses. And 16 days of temperature hovering in or near the 90s means an expensive utility bill for the district as well.
"There was always this philosophy of more more is better. We believe better is better," he said, with an emphasis on making the most of time in the classroom.
For Boone County schools, it's a matter of finding enough time to fit in every priority.
"Our first priority is to end the first semester before Christmas," said Karen Cheser, Boone's chief academic officer. "It's just too detrimental to carry it over into January."
There is a lot to pack into the semester, she said, including:
• 85 school days
• A three-day Thanksgiving break that families made clear that they wanted. Attendance the day before Thanksgiving was poor before they took the day off, she said.
• A day for parent-teacher conferences.
The calendar is negotiated by administrators and the teachers' union.
"When we negotiate, there aren't a lot of decisions we can make each year," Cheser said, because of all of the obligations.
Cheser attended Nelson County, Kentucky, schools in the 1960s and '70s and doesn't recall ever starting school after Labor Day or getting out before June.
"We always went in August, we had less Christmas vacation days and no Wednesday before Thanksgiving," she said.
Not all parents were unhappy with the early start.
"I like that my children go back early," wrote Amanda Lynne. "They went back on the 12th. This way they get a fall break in October and it also gives them more time to make up snow days that we always end up getting a ton of. If they didn't go back early August, they would be in school most of June to make up days."
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