Large school district starting earlier this year, worrying tourism industry

SAISD will start classes two weeks early this year, thanks to a new designation

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Some San Antonio students will be starting school earlier than others this coming year. Now at least one San Antonio school district is taking advantage of a new designation that allows qualifying districts to choose earlier dates.

The change may be helpful for the districts, but it worries the local tourism industry. 

School start dates don't only affect educators, students and their parents, said Ashley Harris with Visit San Antonio.

"People do not realize that every single week you move up that school start date just in the San Antonio area alone that has an economic impact of $44 million," Harris said. 

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Earlier school means fewer people traveling and spending money.

"The vast majority of our business comes in August so that's why that school start date is so important," Harris said."

The current state law says school has to start the fourth Monday in August. Several bills during the regular session aimed to change that, but they did not pass.

However, a 2015 law does allows specific districts to start earlier only if they've been declared "Districts of Innovation." The designation allows districts more flexibility in deciding how to best serve students, much like charter schools. 

San Antonio Independent School District is now a district of innovation, laying out goals such as keeping class sizes down and being more creative in the way they structure class time. The district believes starting school earlier will allow "continuous learning and maximize student performance."{C}{C}

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In the district's innovation plan, it said, "By moving up the start of the school year, the fall semester can be completed before Winter Break. Therefore, the first few weeks of January are not taken up by review and testing. That arrangement would benefit teachers and students."

Though smaller districts, Alamo Heights and South San Antonio ISD are Districts of Innovation and classes at both will begin on Aug. 21.

"SAISD has already indicated that for the 2017-2018 school calendar, they're going to move that up by two weeks. That impacts us (in) the hospitality and tourism (sector)," Harris said.

Other districts in Bexar County are not opening earlier than usual. A Northside ISD spokesperson confirmed their schools will start Aug. 28, which is actually one week later than last year.

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