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2016-17 school calendar will have fewer days than usual

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ proposed calendar for 2016-17 has fewer than 180 days.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ proposed calendar for 2016-17 has fewer than 180 days.

For years, the school year has been 180 days. That’s not going to be the case in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools pretty soon.

An observant reader pointed out to me the other day that neither of the options CMS has put forward for a 2016-17 school calendar have the standard number of days. The first option has 176 days, while the second one has 178 days.

CMS spokesman Brian Hacker said the change doesn’t have anything to do with saving money, though that will certainly be the case. Fewer school days means lower transportation costs, for one.

Hacker said it had to do with the complexities of North Carolina’s school calendar law. The state requires school to start no later than the Monday closest to Aug. 26, which will fall on a Friday in 2016. That means school is starting later than usual that year. Similarly, the school year will have to end a few days earlier than usual.

The CMS committee tasked with coming up with the 2016-17 calendar said they had no other choice than to shrink the number of days, Hacker said. They’ll still have more than the 1,025 class hours required by state law.

The CMS calendar has always been shaped by that law. For a long time, the state required school districts to have classes for 180 days. Ultimately, the law changed to require either 185 school days or 1,025 hours.

CMS has generally gone with 1,080 hours in recent years. That’s given CMS a lot of flexibility. You’ll recall that when a winter storm came through in February, Superintendent Ann Clark decided the days would not be made up.

So when CMS shrinks the number of days in the school year, the change may ultimately put the district in more of a bind should there be a brutal winter. The district won’t have the ability to waive as many make-up days.

It’s way too early to panic now, but that means spring break 2017 could be a little more risky than usual. Ask Wake County how that can happen.

Dunn: 704-358-5235;

Twitter: @andrew_dunn