Saving Tennessee Summers In The Cold Of November

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Nashville (WVLT) -- Frustrated Knox County parents have taken their battle to “Save Tennessee Summers” to the state level.

They want the legislature to set a statewide school calendar.

This year Knox County schools started August 9th.

Next year, students were set to crack the books even earlier on August 6th, but after parents complained, the school board pushed the start date back to August 11th.

On Thursday, those same parents told state leaders that it is still not late enough.

Among them was Amy Olson, who is on a mission for her three kids.

"I'm their parent,” Olson said, “I know what's best for them."

On Thursday morning, she and a half dozen other frustrated Knox County parents told state legislators their side of the issue.

"Going back to school on August 9th or August 11th is too early in the summer,” Olson said. “We want them to have 10, 11 or 12 weeks of summer."

Their concerns already convinced the Knox County School Board to move next year's start date back five days.

"That's not a victory, not when we're looking for a third week of August start and many parents saying they'd like an after Labor Day start," Olson said.

So now she's in Nashville, asking for a state-mandated later start date.

"The benefit in life is more than education,” she said. “It's about experiences and it's about learning morals. It's having memories of being with your family."

In meeting room 29, her efforts are joined by parents from across state and together they form the group “Save Tennessee Summers.”

"Our children our starting school when it's 105 degrees,” said Carol Duffin, co-founder of the group. “They're sitting in hot, un-air conditioned buses, two to three to a seat."

The Knox County School Board hired the University of Tennessee to conduct a county-wide-school calendar survey.

The board will discuss that further Monday.

"If they really wanted parental involvement they would've chosen a better week than the week before thanksgiving," Olson said.

Not every at the podium's pulling for the state to step-in.

"The state's not in a position to take into account every single locality and all the individual needs and wants," said Athanasios Bayiates from the Knox County Education Association.

"We're not ready to step in, at least not right now and tell local school boards when they need to start," said Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson.

Even after crossing a time zone to let her voice be heard, Olson's journey isn't over.

"It's a quest to inform people that you have a right to a voice in when your children attend school," she said.

Sen. Lowe says the study committee has no legislation planned so far but they will meet again in two to three weeks and plan to issue their recommendations in January.

Last year, a bill failed that would have blocked schools from starting earlier than a week before Labor Day.


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