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Schools, tourism businesses weigh in on school starting later in Missouri

While back to school means a load off for many parents, for some in the tourism industry it means the end of their busy season. But a new law signed in Missouri could mean longer summers starting next year.

The law signed in July makes it so schools in Missouri can’t start more than 14 days ahead of Labor Day. Supporters of the bill said it could be a big boost to the tourism industry. It’s something both school administrators and tourism business owners like in Hannibal at the riverfront are weighing in on.

“When school gets ramped up we all are prepared, I’ve done this so many years,” said Mark Twain Riverboat Owner Steve Terry.

According to Terry, the end of the summer means high schoolers and college students who usually keep the boat well staffed are gone during the week.

He said the new law that will keep students out of school longer into the summer could help his business.

“I think if they started later it would help extend our summer, but it depends on where they’ll pick up those days,” said Terry, adding that it’s still hard to tell how the new law will effect his business.

Tri-State school administrators said they however already have a good idea how it’ll impact students.

“Next calendar year, Labor Day is on the 7th, that means we can’t start school until the last week of August, and for some schools in the state of Missouri, that is 3 weeks later than when they typically start,” said Superintendent of Lewis County C-1 Schools John French.

French said it’s a one-size fits all solution that just doesn’t fit rural districts like his. His biggest concern, less time to prepare for things like state testing.

“That date hasn’t changed, so essentially we’ve reduced the number of days our teachers have with our students to get them prepared for the tests,” said French.

For Terry, he hopes both schools and the tourism industry can adjust well.

“We want students to get a good education and they have to go so many days, and weather that means lengthening the day or starting earlier or starting later, that’s not for me to decide,” said Terry.

French said in the past the law made schools start 10 days before Labor Day but let districts have the option to petition to check that, Something they can’t do anymore.

French said there are other concerns for students as well. One of those, the fact that many dates for sporting events aren’t changing, meaning students in activities have to find other ways to get to school besides buses. He said the shortened first semester gives students less time to complete course work, adding that starting later in the year could increase the risk of snow days taking up a larger percentage of the semester.

Frank Healy

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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