Labor Day is when?
When scheduling next year's school vacations and holidays, most Florida districts had more pressing things on their minds than which religions to observe or offend.
They had their eyes fixed on Labor Day.
For 2009, it comes on Sept. 7, the latest it possibly could. And thanks to a 2006 state law promoted by the tourism industry but opposed by educators, that means classes can't begin until Aug. 24.
This poses a couple of problems for districts.
First, high school parents, students and teachers want the first semester to end before winter break, which pretty much everyone agrees should happen before Christmas and New Year's Day. It's a main reason so many districts had moved their start dates closer to July before 2006. The state requires a semester to be at least 81 days, which gives districts little flexibility for holidays and other days off in the fall.
That leads to problem No. 2. Push the winter break back too far and you run into concerns about having too little time to prepare for the FCAT testing cycle -- another key reason for past earlier start dates. The writing portion comes in mid February, with the rest starting in early March.
Even as districts are adopting calendars to reflect this situation, some officials are again talking about the need to fix it.
"Why don't we ask them [lawmakers] to give us relief this year? That to me is the smartest thing to do," Pasco School Board member Kathryn Starkey said during a recent meeting. Her colleagues agreed to add the matter to their legislative agenda.
Will they succeed? If history serves as a guide, no. Last year, Sen. Bill Posey's bill to give districts more scheduling flexibility couldn't even muster a second vote to get out of committee.