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School start dates have an impact on park owners

For families with school-aged children summer break is filled with a slew of activities from vacations to summer jobs and just generally more time to spend outdoors, away from the routine of the school year.

For campground owners, especially those in the northern states, this is typically the busiest time of the year, according to a report by Woodalls Campground Management, sister publication to RVBusiness.

However, in several states owners are facing shorter summer seasons due to state initiatives that are pushing for earlier school start dates.

Jeff Sims, director of state relations and program advocacy at the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), said that the school start date issue is something the association monitors all the time.

“Number one, we all want children to have a good education,” he explained. “The reality is when it comes to tourism if you have a very short summer that will not only impact campground or RV parks with fewer campers, but it also reduces the labor force, because a lot of these places rely on school aged kids to fill positions during the summer. It also cuts down on the amount of taxes local municipalities will see because there are less tourist and that in turn lowers the amount of funding to support schools.”

Sims said the issue has been a tough fight everywhere.

“I know North Carolina has had several attempts and even the state of Missouri,” he noted. “When you are seeing kids starting back in the first week of August I’m like, ‘Are you serious?’”

Brian Schaeffer, CEO of the Texas Association of Campground Owners, knows all about this fight. He is currently trying to make sure that school districts in Texas don’t start eating away at summer break.

“The core legislation that we passed a number of years ago is still on the books saying that the official school start date is the fourth Monday of August and that was kind of a legislative compromise,” he explained. “I mean we would have preferred right after Labor Day and letting kids out right after Memorial Day, but we compromised.

“Then around four years ago in an emergency session and at the midnight hour there was a bill that went through and in the super fine print of this bill was something that essentially had the potential to gut the school start date,” Schaeffer continued. “It allowed school districts to apply to become a “school district of innovation” and if they received that designation then they were able to have full control over their school calendar. The definition is weak and pretty much if you have a pulse you can be a “school district of innovation.”

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