Back to school season begins this week and goes through late September

Kinder Elementary School Librarian Michelle Crespo sorts through books with audio packages as she prepares for the opening of the school year this week in Miamisburg. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Back to school season has begun, but district start dates are scattered more widely this year with the first schools starting next week and the last won’t begin until mid-September.

Miamisburg students go back to class next week and will be six weeks into their school year before Northridge students see the inside of their new school.

“There is no law that states when school should start, there are just laws on mandatory number of days and hours (of instruction),” said Jeff Chambers, Ohio School Boards Association Director of Communications. “School start dates in Ohio are across the board. There is no particular week when most of them start.”

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Miamisburg gets a head start on all other Dayton-area school districts, with students returning to classes next Thursday. Dayton, Trotwood and most charter schools start Aug. 12. Many large suburban districts, including Centerville, Beavercreek, Northmont and Springboro start Aug. 14. The majority of local schools, including many Catholic schools, start either the weeks of Aug. 12 or Aug. 19.

Superintendent David Vail says Miamisburg chooses to start their school year early enough so that the end of the first semester comes prior to the traditional winter break.

“Not only does this take some of the anxiety away from the students who felt the pressure to return to classes after the break and face exams, but it also allowed there to be more instructional time for the students prior to the administration of mandated testing,” Vail said. “Since we have a fall break, usually in October, we needed to start a week earlier than the other districts to accommodate this break.”

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There is a plan to survey the Miamisburg community on whether to keep the annual fall break or not, with Vail saying the school district will meet residents’ “needs and expectations” based on those survey results.

While Miamisburg is first, Northridge Local Schools are on the other extreme with school beginning on Sept. 23. No other local school starts later than Aug. 28 (Mississinawa Valley). Northridge was hit hard by the May 27 tornadoes, but they had already been planning for a late start because of construction of a new preschool-12th grade school building.

“We were scheduled to attain an occupancy permit on Aug. 20 and planned to start earlier in September,” Superintendent Dave Jackson said. However, due to the loss of power and water to the site, as well as additional factors related to the Memorial Day tornado, our new anticipated occupancy date is Sept. 6. This gives us 2 weeks to move everything into the new building (from our current buildings) and to be prepared for students by Sept. 23.”

Last year, Northridge’s school calendar ran from Aug. 22 to May 30, with students scheduled for 172 days. Because of the later start, the district is planning to go through June 12, 2020, for only 165 days.

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Northridge will provide at least the state-required minimum number of hours of instruction to students – at least 910 hours for students in full-day kindergarten through grade 6, and at least 1,001 hours for students in grades 7-12.

There are many factors that play into when certain school districts choose to start for the year. Several early starters join Miamisburg in getting exams done before winter break. The seven Darke County districts are the latest starters other than Northridge, waiting until after the county fair ends Aug. 24.

“The community plays into some of those decisions. The length of various breaks during the school year play into that, for example, the length of a winter break,” said David Romick, President of the Dayton Education Association. “Whether a school is on a year-round schedule or some sort of a blended schedule can play into when school starts back as well.”

In recent years, some state lawmakers have proposed legislation that would force all schools to start after Labor Day, in part to help the state’s tourism industry, but those bills haven’t passed.

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“I used to see some advantages to starting earlier because students would be done before Memorial Day and before the heat of summer but now the weather has sort of shifted and the heat of summer continues into the end of August and early September,” said Romick. “Now with air conditioning there isn’t really a huge advantage one way or the other.”

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