Rock Hill considers a smarter school calendar

We think the proposal to adjust Rock Hill’s school-year calendar to end the first semester before winter holidays makes good sense. It would end a conflict that has plagued students and teachers alike for years.

The calendar proposed for the 2015-2016 school year would begin in the Rock Hill school district on Tuesday, Aug. 18. State law mandates that schools may start no earlier than the third Monday in August, and Aug. 18 is the Tuesday after the third Monday.

But to end the semester before the winter break, the district would set the last day of the semester on Friday, Dec. 18. That would mean the first semester would be only 84 days long, compared to a 96-day second semester ending on Tuesday, June 2.

That wouldn’t break any rules. State law requires that students receive 180 days of instruction, but the state doesn’t specify how those days must be divided between semesters.

The change, which the board will vote on at Monday’s meeting, would fix a perennial scheduling problem. Currently, school calendars in Rock Hill and other York County districts don’t end the first semester until after the winter holidays, which requires students to complete their exams two weeks after they return to school on Jan 5.

This has never been a practical approach. Students are forced to worry about exams during the break, and they are likely to forget some of what they learned while on holiday. And, when they return, teachers often have to “re-teach” materials in the two weeks before exams.

Under the proposed change, students would be finished with exams before they take off for the winter holidays. They could take exams when the material is fresh in their minds and enjoy themselves during their time off.

As of now, Rock Hill is the only district in the county proposing to adjust its 2015-2016 calendar to end the first semester sooner. Other districts might consider a similar change, but state law on the starting date of the school year would have to be changed before districts could end the first semester early without shortening it.

Four years ago, all four York County school districts decided to coordinate their calendars. One of the primary goals was to make life easier for teachers who live in one district and teach in another. By coordinating calendars in the York, Clover, Rock Hill and Fort Mill school districts, teachers and their children were out of school on the same days.

Ending the semester early in Rock Hill shouldn’t significantly affect that. Holidays still would be the same.

But we think Rock Hill has a better approach to dividing up the school year. Other districts in the county might want to look at the model being considered by Rock Hill and think about using it themselves.