Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This year's blistering heat has some wondering if it's ... Too hot for school?

Heflin High School Band member Dan Parsons enjoys shade provided by a xylophone while the band practices in scorching afternoon heat Tuesday. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star

Thermometers may have climbed as high as 102 degrees on Aug. 9, the first day of school.

Since then, temperatures have hovered in the triple digits, inciting parents and legislators in favor of delaying the start of the school year.

State Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, plans to propose a bill mandating a school start date on or after Aug. 25. The specific start date for each district will remain up to school boards, Ford said.

He proposed a similar bill two years ago but never brought it before the House. But he said he expects this year's bill to pass.

The bill, according to advocates of later school start dates, would benefit students, who may be endangered by the hot weather and whose summer break is too short for them to get excited about returning to school, said Tina Bruno of the Coalition for the Traditional School Year, who acts as a spokesperson for Save Alabama Summers, a nonprofit organization in favor of later school start dates.

The reasons for the school year's early start are a mix of historical – the current calendar is designed for an agrarian society – and modern. An earlier start date allows for pre-Christmas exams and more instructional days before standardized tests, said Sally Howell, executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards.

But those instructional days could be added as easily by eliminating breaks during the school year, Bruno said.

And starting school in early August could put students at risk for dehydration and other heat-related injuries during physical education classes and bus rides.

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