In a first, Philadelphia public school students are heading back for their first day of school before Labor Day this year. Students will report on August 27th, a week before the unofficial but traditional end to summer.
The now-defunct School Reform Commission made the decision to change the first day of school back in 2016, having mulled it over for a year. School officials say this early return will be the new normal; the move is designed to ensure as many uninterrupted weeks of teaching as possible, according to School District of Philadelphia superintendent William Hite Jr. Holidays and interruptions early in the year often get in the way, and the district wants an uninterrupted first week to get teaching under way in a smooth fashion.
“We wanted more instructional days earlier in the year,” Hite told the Inquirer. “Closer to the end of the year, you get into spring-itis and summer-itis. This gives us more days to be in front of children before they sit for any assessments — state, Advanced Placement, SAT.”
Beyond that, pupils can at least take solace in knowing their summer will start early in 2019. The last day is on the calendar for June 4th, according to the Inquirer, whereas the year typically drags on late into the month.
Schools in the Neshaminy district have started before the last summer holiday for a few years now. Officials say it allows families to get a jump on their summer plans, and gives the district wiggle room in case of snow days and other unplanned interruptions.
“By starting two or three days before Labor Day, we’re able to give ourselves a little bit of wiggle room and get everybody out on time,” district spokesperson Chris Stanley told the paper. “It’s built around the needs of our community.”
Many schools in the city still lack air conditioning. And parents and staff members raised concerns initially over stifling August heat, and how students will fare in the old buildings as the last of the dog days drag on.
Officials say they found little difference between late June and late August heat. The teachers union again cited student and staff welfare.
Regardless, the city is pushing ahead, and making sure — through a social media campaign, #RingtheBellPHL, featuring the mayor and Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins — that the district’s 130,000 students show up on Monday.