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Bill frees CMS from calendar limits

Four Mecklenburg County legislators introduced a bill to free Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools from statewide restrictions on when schools can begin and end the academic year.

Opponents of North Carolina’s school calendar law have repeatedly failed to return decision-making to local school boards. Rep. Tricia Cotham, a Democrat who was a CMS administrator before entering the state legislature, said she and her House colleagues are trying the single-district approach to send a message to Senate leadership.

“We often talk about local control,” Cotham said Wednesday. “If we really believe in local control, then we need to give local control.”

The calendar law, originally passed in 2004, was spurred partly by requests from the tourism industry to create a uniform summer vacation. It requires most public schools to open in late August and be finished in early June.

Last year legislators gave the nine schools in CMS’ Project LIFT zone an exemption. West Charlotte High and its eight feeder schools are part of a public-private partnership, bolstered by $55 million in private donations, to improve academic results. Four of those schools will open in July, using alternative calendars designed to reduce the loss of skills over a longer summer break.

Cotham, Democrat Becky Carney and Republicans Bill Brawley and Charles Jeter are the primary sponsors of House Bill 509, which would exempt all of CMS. Eleven other representatives are listed as having signed on.

Cotham said it was her idea to propose a districtwide exemption, and she got the go-ahead from CMS leaders.

Helms: 704-358-5033 Twitter: @anndosshelms
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