MANDAN (AP) - A group of parents is making a push to mandate that North Dakota public schools start classes after Labor Day.
The group plans to circulate petitions to put an initiated measure on the November 2014 ballot. The petition will need approval from the secretary of state, then proponents will need to collect about 13,500 signatures to force a vote.
Each school district is free to set its own calendar, including the starting date for the academic year. The state Department of Public Instruction has always taken the position that it is a decision best left at the local level, Assistant Superintendent Bob Marthaller told The Bismarck Tribune.
Parent Kelly Heinert said during a news conference Monday at a water park in Mandan - where classes begin Thursday - that delaying the start of classes until after Labor Day would give families more time to enjoy summer weather.
"You can't change the weather in North Dakota ... but what we can change is the school calendar to match the weather," he said, according to KXMB-TV.
A later start date would boost tourism because it would mean more vacations for families and more student workers available for places such as pools and water parks, said Terry Harzinski, executive director of the Bismarck-Mandan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"Those of us in the tourism industry have wanted something like this for years," he said.
Bismarck Superintendent Tamara Uselman told the Tribune that the drawback to a later school start would be that the school year likely would not be able to end before Memorial Day. Many students also are starting activities such as fall sports in August, and some families would prefer to start school earlier since they wouldn't be able to travel anyway.
Bismarck Activities Director Jim Haussler told the Tribune that a later start date likely would not affect school activities that begin in August because their schedules are driven by the North Dakota High School Activities Association and weather concerns.