Tourist bureau: Start school year later

SANDUSKY Tourism and Sandusky are like fish and chips. They just go together. That's why the Lake Er
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Tourism and Sandusky are like fish and chips. They just go together. That's why the Lake Erie Shores & Islands Welcome Center is asking school systems to rethink traditional school-year calendars.

"Tourism is valuable in our area," executive director Joan Van Offeren said. "We're asking schools to consider starting the school year after Labor Day."

Senate Bill 89, which was re-established in March 2007, challenges all entities to create, promote and support regional food and cultural tourism. Doing so will benefit both the community and the schools, Van Offeren said.

As more money is taken in by businesses, more money is available to the school systems, she said.

Students working in the tourism industry often use summer wages to pay their way through college and would benefit from the extra work days, Van Offeren said.

"For the past two years, Michigan schools have gone back after Labor Day ... and it seems they have all visited here in the end of August. Our local businesses have suffered because we do not have enough staff to serve these guests," according to a statement written by Van Offeren and president Mike Tann.

"It is a topic we are investigating," Van Offeren said. "We're just starting to explore it locally because it is a statewide issue. We're hoping to speak with teacher unions, superintendents and also find out what parents think."

Perkins interim superintendent Dennis Rectenwald said the proposed legislation is nothing new, but it's ultimately up to the districts whether they want to renegotiate their calendars.

"Starting after Labor Day certainly has its merits, especially in this part of Ohio," he said. "I can speak not only as a superintendent, but a business person that has a facility on the islands."

He said the extra days would provide teachers additional time to establish coursework without being pressed about school starting.

It would also help them complete their master's degrees during the summer, he said.

Extending summer vacation would also give businesses time to take in more profit before the slower winter season. Since sports already start before school begins, Rectenwald said pushing back the official first day of school wouldn't interrupt game schedules.

"The downside would be the possible shortening of the Christmas holiday. We have to make up those days somehow," Rectenwald said.

Shortening spring break is also an option, but might not be the best choice, Rectenwald said.

"I think spring break is definitely a plus. By that time of year, teachers and students need a little break from each other," he said.

Norwalk superintendent Wayne Babcanec said he's opposed to the idea. He thinks officials should look at extending the year because students in countries around the globe spend much more time in school.

Though Van Offeren said letters are being sent to all Erie County schools, districts such as Margaretta Township aren't prepared to discuss matters until after the first of the year.

"We have a levy on the ballot," Superintendent Ed Kurt said. "We're focusing on that at this point."

Kurt said the district is not swaying one way or the other, but the topic will definitely be revisited with the start of the new year.

"We're so much of a vacation area," he said. "This is a bigger issue for us because of all the waterparks and Cedar Point. It's just the way we're set up. The issue, it's not going to go away."