COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) — While several area school districts are issuing early dismissals Wednesday due to the extreme heat, one state senator has announced he will reintroduce legislation to start classes after Labor Day.
Sen. Leonidas Raptakis said his legislation would standardize the annual start of the school year in Rhode Island during the next legislative session.
The bill, which Raptakis has introduced several times in the past, would require public schools, including charter schools, to begin the school year on the day after Labor Day, which is observed on the first Monday of September.
Raptakis said the legislation is common sense, especially when you factor in the weather.”
“You go in for two days, and then you have a break of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday,” he said. “It makes no sense.”
Raptakis said the legislation also takes student safety into consideration.
“We don’t send kids to school when the temperatures are extreme. We don’t want the kids standing outside waiting for the school bus in extreme cold weather,” he told Eyewitness News on Tuesday. “Why should we have them standing in school buses in extreme hot weather?”
According to the Eyewitness News Pinpoint Weather Team, temperatures are expected to be in the mid-90s Wednesday, with a potential feel-like temperature into the triple-digits.
Raptakis said it is “virtually impossible” for students to properly learn when the temperatures outside are extreme.
“Frankly, our schools are not equipped to deal with the type of heat we are experiencing this week, which in turn, hurts our children’s education during these extremely uncomfortable times in the classroom,” Raptakis explained. “Typically, the temperatures are much more bearable during June as opposed to late August and that is one reason why our kids should only be going back to school after Labor Day.”
He also said under the current legislation, parents with children who are different ages and attend different schools with different start times may have a hard time planning family vacations that cut too close to the start of the school year.
“Tourism is big business in Rhode Island,” Raptakis said. “It will certainly help businesses that rely heavily on summer revenue such as restaurants or summer rentals, and that also includes summer jobs for high school students that are cut short with August start dates. Extending that summer vacation can add revenue to the state.”
Eyewitness News spoke with parents about the legislation Tuesday night. Tiffani Duran, of Coventry, said her two kids started school after the holiday last year, but they go back to school before Labor Day this year. Duran said she does not understand the change.
“I also feel like this time of year always brings that one blast of summer, and they [the kids] always end up suffering,” Duran explained. “I send them to school with extra cold waters to keep them hydrated. So, I think it [a later start date] would make a world of difference for us parents and the kids.”