New Hanover Co. School Board delays calendar vote, approves raises for school bus drivers

New Hanover Co. School Board delays calendar vote, approves raises for school bus drivers

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The New Hanover County School Board has been discussing starting the school year two weeks earlier than usual next year. But around 11:15 Tuesday night, after meeting for nearly six hours, the board decided to postpone their decision until their December board meeting.

School administrators recently conducted a survey of over 5,000 parents, teachers, students and others, and received overwhelming support for the idea proposed by the calendar committee to move the first day of school to August 11. 63% of survey respondents liked the idea of having first semester finish before Christmas break and school letting out for the summer by Memorial Day.

But school officials also received some push back. The tourism industry said the calendar change would be detrimental to local businesses that are in their peak season in the month of August. The owner of Jungle Rapids also spoke at the school board meeting, saying he depends on students for his summer labor force and the calendar change would be a significant problem for him.

Some families had also already booked vacations for next August.

After some heated discussion, school board members seemed to agree that changing the calendar was still in the best interest of the students, but they wanted to take the time to implement this change correctly. They asked Deputy Superintendent LaChawn Smith to bring them a traditional calendar to consider at the December board meeting, and indicated that a major shift to the New Hanover County School calendar would not happen until the 2021-2022 school year.

In addition to the calendar questions, the school board discussed bus driver pay Tuesday night.

The school board approved a raise for school bus drivers ahead of the passage of the state budget. The state is expected to bump up starting pay for bus drivers up to $14, but the board decided to move forward with the $14 rate now as the county faces a dire shortage of drivers.

Judy Justice was the only one to vote against the measure because she didn’t think the raise was big enough.

The school board also adopted a new policy for service animals in schools. A recent incident at Parsley Elementary School, where a student had trouble bringing their service animal to school, prompted a review of the policy. New Hanover County Schools realized their policy was out of compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act, and voted to make necessary changes to accommodate students with service animals.

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