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Union County school leaders vote to ditch early start date for 2023-24 year

The district's previous decision to start next school year on Aug. 9 defies state law and prompted a lawsuit from parents.

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — The Union County Board of Education voted Friday to rescind its controversial decision to start the 2023 school year several weeks early and decided school will now start in late August. 

Now, Union County Public Schools will begin the 2023-24 school year on Aug. 28. The school year will end on June 7. The more traditional calendar was approved by an 8-1 vote.

Board members took both votes during a special meeting to discuss the proposed calendar change that was unanimously approved last month. The meeting was originally scheduled for Tuesday evening before it was pushed to Friday morning. 

The board voted in December to start school on Aug. 9, 2023. A lawsuit filed against the district claims this is three weeks before North Carolina state law allows schools to start. The new calendar would have the school year run through May 22, 2024, with exams being taken before winter break. 

Superintendent Andrew Houlihan said the proposed calendar, with exams before winter break, helps students who are earning credit through South Piedmont Community College. 

"From a stakeholder perspective, this is a calendar I think would definitely help with our academic progress and our continuous improvement," Houlihan said in December. 

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The proposed calendar change was made after the district received parent input on calendar preferences. According to the lawsuit, both options offered by Union County Public Schools set the start date as Aug. 28. 

District leaders acknowledged their proposed date violated state law but went forward with the change noting multiple other districts made similar moves

Some parents against the change said summer vacation plans could be disrupted since those plans were made under the assumption that UCPS would align with the traditional North Carolina school calendar. Houlihan said principals would meet with him this month to discuss the possibility of students missing the first week of class under the new calendar. 

Houlihan also noted staff members were in the same situation and that school leaders would work with them.

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