NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Leaders from the New Hanover County beach communities and City of Wilmington met Friday to discuss the proposed changes to the New Hanover County School calendar.
The New Hanover County School Board has been discussing starting the school year two weeks earlier than usual next year, but has delayed the vote numerous times due to concerns from those in the tourism industry.
Kim Hufham, President & CEO of Wilmington Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau, says moving the start of the school year to early August would essentially cut a month out of peak tourist season, impacting the local economy.
“We have an established tourism season that runs through pretty much the end of August now. We have workers that are affected, people are accustomed to visiting during that time, so it’s very important not to change that because we don’t want to lose those essential months out of our schedule,” Hufham said.
Restaurant, hotel, retail, and attraction and tour owners say this would impact their businesses and also the overall economy in New Hanover County.
The group has met various times since November. Huffham wanted to get everyone up to speed on the latest information before the school board votes on the calendar issue on January 7.
Huffham says they have had an ongoing and open dialogue with school board members who have asked business owners to provide numbers on how this change could affect them.
“Our goal in all of this is to have a calendar that is both good for education and good for tourism as well and we really feel like by working together, we can come to terms with that,” Huffham said.
This change could not only impact the tourism industry, but also New Hanover County students.
“We did a poll among our industry and anywhere from 5 percent to 40 percent of the workforce during the tourist season are high school students so it’s very important not just from the economic front because of the businesses but for families here as well,” Hufham said.
Mary Baggett, who owns the Blockade Runner Hote, told the room about 30 percent of her staff was made up of high school students last summer. She said many of those students were working to afford to pay for college or to help their families.
Huffham urges anyone in the tourism and hospitality industry to reach out to school board members ahead of the vote.
“Reach out to the school board. Number one tell them we appreciate that they’ve taken the time to listen to the industry and then voice our concerns and why we feel like it’s important that we do keep a later date in August as far as school starts.”