Arizona hotel operators want families to take an end-of-summer vacation - and, hopefully, fill their empty rooms.

Kristen Jarnigan, spokeswoman for the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association, said her industry is weighing legislation that would require all public schools to start their academic year at the same time. More to the point, the law would forbid schools from starting back up before Labor Day.

"It extends the holiday season," she said. "You get in that Labor Day weekend where everyone does that one last hurrah getaway that pumps millions of dollars of tax revenues into the budget in tourism tax dollars."

More to the point for her industry, it also would fill empty rooms and the cash registers of resorts, hotels and motels.

But the idea is getting a decidedly icy reception on various fronts.

Lucy Messing, president of the Tucson Education Association, said Arizona schools used to start after Labor Day. That was "based on the fields and people returning from vacation."

"But we're about education," she said. "We certainly should not be run by the hotel lobby."

Messing said the current calendar, put together by a committee of school administrators, educators and parents, seems to best suit the needs of those involved.

That's the case in the Mesa Unified School District as well. Mesa, where classes resume Wednesday, just recently completed its calendar process and now has calendars scheduled out through May 2013.

District spokeswoman Kathy Bareiss said a calendar option that would start classes after Labor Day was considered, but was not as popular among parents as the calendar with an earlier start date and a one-week break in October.

Bareiss said that, in theory, a statewide uniform start date might sound like a great idea because it can be difficult for families when they have students in multiple schools with different start dates, or when teachers with children live in one district but work in another district that starts on a different day.

"However, this is a very personal issue to parents, and in every district, every family is going to feel differently about the calendar," she said, adding that's why the decision about calendars is best made at the local level by districts and school boards.

Even Tom Horne, the state superintendent of public instruction, said the idea makes no sense.

Jarnigan, however, said there are lots of good reasons to consider adjusting the school year.

She said there is evidence that August, when most schools start up now, is at least marginally hotter than June. She cited figures showing the average high in August at 102.4 degrees, versus just 102 degrees for June.

But Jarnigan said the proposal doesn't mean extending the school year into the entire month of June. She said districts could get in the required number of days by omitting breaks some have now in the fall.

One complicating factor is some schools - like Chandler and Queen Creek unified school districts and a number of charter schools - run on a year-round calendar, based at least in part on the educational theory that students lose too much ground when they've got too much time between classes.

"They would also need to be included in the discussion," Jarnigan said, before the Legislature mandates a universal start date.

Terry Locke, spokesman for the Chandler district, said the calendar proposed by the hotel association would be very unpopular in Chandler, where the current modified year-round calendar has a 93 percent approval rating from parents.

He said the year-round schedule has attracted families and quality teachers to Chandler schools, and has proven successful in helping kids to retain what they learn.

Horne said having a uniform, state-mandated start date would overrule such local control. What it also would do, Horne said, is provoke anger.

"You learn from bitter experience not to mess with the calendar committee," said Horne, who served on the Paradise Valley Unified School District governing board for 24 years.

"One year we changed it," Horne recalled of his board. "And we got so much hostility for that, that we learned never to change that again."

Tribune news editor CeCe Todd contributed to this report.

(5) comments

wellreadone

They just lost my business. Good show Hotel Lobby, your greed is now public record. Thanks for showing your true colors.

monkeyboy

Funny... Big business is trying to drum up summer occupancy rates and encouraging more AZ local tourism by proposing these idiotic measures...

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and the state Legislature is enacting draconian legislation geared toward alienating the Mexican people. Isn't that what's causing tourism to falter? Go to Rockypoint -- all the Mexican nationals are there, enjoying the condos, afraid to visit the US. Visits by middle class Mexico are down 17%. This is not a small amount... Like it or not, our economy is intertwined with Mexico.

Jan Brewer, you shot yourself in the foot by pandering to populist sentiment.

samkat

Maybe they should be concentrating on bringing in out of state visitors. If necessary, they should be offer good rates if they have excess rooms to fill. It is one way to overcome the boycott.

CrosleyV8

The hotel industry needs to stay out of school start times.

brainfreeze

The hotel industry is the last persons/entity that should decide when school starts. It has absolutely NOTHING to do w/ them. If they need to fill rooms, then I guess they should think of another way to do it.
The admin and parents should be the only ones with say in the situation.

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