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Billings Public School District an "outlier" after school calendar change

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jan 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-27 20:38:03-05

BILLINGS — Students in Billings Public Schools will have an extra long summer this year, with big changes to the calendar about to take effect. The district's board of trustees voted to bump back the start of the school year in December.

It means school won't end until several weeks into the month of June, a change that will have a big impact on many's summer vacations.

But for Billings parent, Sarah James, it's a welcome change. With two kids at Broadwater Elementary, James has a lot to keep track of.

“We’re doing student council, we got honor choir, we’re doing majorettes which we get to practice here which is awesome,” James said on Wednesday at Broadwater Elementary.

Starting next school year, James will have to make some adjustments, as the 2024 school year will start after Labor Day and end on June 13.

Sarah James with her two kids and one of their friends.

“We’re going to move up to 6th grade next year so getting those orientations in before the end of school, I think that’s an optimal time,”

Others are less enthused. Peruse social media, and you'll find one comment after another from parents who are less than excited about a mid-June end to the school year.

It's a change that makes Billings Public Schools an outlier in the state.

“I looked at 30 districts in Montana as part of my large nationwide sample and out of those 30 districts, only three of them started in September,” said Pew Research Senior Writer, Drew DeSilver.

DeSilver just conducted an extensive study on school start dates across the country.

Drew DeSilver of Pew Research

“I think a lot of districts, they look at what other districts are doing, and nobody wants to be that far out of step with their neighbors,” DeSilver said.

New district superintendent Erwin Garcia said the change is overdue, citing a lack of air conditioning in two high schools as one of the primary motivations for the change.

"Just attending school in the summertime, I noticed classrooms can be 90 degrees, 95 degrees, almost 100 degrees," Garcia said.

It's a change that will have a big impact on families all throughout the district, for better or worse.

“Yes, we’ve had some people that will say, now I can’t do my memorial day vacation. Well, but you have more summer. If you want to do something for Labor Day, it’s a good time to do that too,” said James.