When will school start in Sullivan County next year?

Rick Wagner • Sep 6, 2019 at 3:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The idea of starting school on Aug. 10 instead of Aug. 3 next school year won an online Sullivan County School poll by a narrow margin among voting of more than 1,500 people.

However, that change would mean that the Christmas and New Year’s vacation would be shortened and not start until a half-day off on Wednesday, Dec. 23, the day before Christmas Eve, instead of a half-day on Friday, Dec. 18. So the county Board of Education — after members asked some questions  — voted 7-0 to go with the earlier start date recommended by staff.

Assistant Director of Schools Angie Buckles presented the results of the online poll during a work session last week as 50.6 percent for Calendar 2 starting on Aug. 10 and 49.4 percent for Calendar 1 starting on Aug. 3. She again presented the options at the Thursday night voting meeting with the formal staff recommendation of the earlier starting date. The difference was among 1,507 votes, and she speculated last week that some may not have noticed the shortened Christmas break associated with the later start.

Board member Jane Thomas asked Thursday night if the earlier start would go against what teachers wanted, but Buckles said it was impossible to tell the breakdown of teachers, parents, students and the general public in the online polling results since anybody could respond during a week-long window. Responding to a question from board member Paul Robinson, Buckles said the poll drew a couple of hundred fewer participants than last year. 

Both calendars would resume the same date in 2021, Monday, Jan. 4. Both would have the same five-day spring break, would get out the same day, half a day on May 20, and have 11 banked snow days plus two professional development days for a total of 13 banked days. That means the school system, through having longer school days, could miss 11 days for snow before having to extend the school calendar to make up for those lost days.

In other action, the board:

— By acclamation reappointed Michael Hughes chairman and Randall Jones vice chairman. Thomas made a motion to appoint Mark Ireson as chairman, but it died for lack of a second. The board also approved a motion that appointed Matthew Spivey the Tennessee Legislative Network liaison after Ireson declined Thomas’ motion to nominate him for the position before a second was sought;

— Approved a motion by Ireson that delayed the Holston Institute property report until the Oct. 3 meeting, when Board Attorney Pat Hull is to give the board a report on title issues with the deed to the former school property, which has restrictions saying it must be used for education or revert to heirs, and an appraiser’s opinion on the real estate, which is near Tri-Cities Airport; and 

— Approved on second and final reading housekeeping policy changes recommended by the Tennessee School Boards Association to comply with law changes.