Unlike most Delaware school districts, Indian River and Cape Henlopen have historically kicked off their school years after Labor Day.
Under legislation proposed on May 6 by Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View), a task force will be created to study the issue of moving the start date to after Labor Day for all Delaware public schools.
Hocker said such a move would put money into the pockets of more Delawareans, particularly high school students.
"Many seasonal businesses today won't hire you if you don't sign an agreement that you'll work through Labor Day," Hocker said. "In this tight economy, where so many parents have lost jobs or income, this would allow more high school-aged kids to find work and keep the money in their families and in the state."
Hocker, who owns several businesses in Sussex County, said many of the thousands of seasonal jobs are filled by foreign visa workers who, at the end of the summer, take those earnings back to their home countries.
"This move will mean millions of dollars in revenue to the state," he said. "And more importantly, it will help local families."
The bi-partisan Senate Concurrent Resolution introduced by Hocker calls for the task force to investigate whether extending the summer season past Labor Day, while keeping the mandated number of days in the school calendar, would provide considerable economic benefit to the state. The task force would include state legislators, state and local school officials, teachers, state tourism officials, and representatives of businesses impacted by summer tourism. The resolution directs the task force to report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly and the governor by Jan. 14, 2014.
Of the 19 districts in the Delaware Public School System, only Indian River and Cape Henlopen had a start date following Labor Day in the current school year. Both started on Sept. 4, 2012 and both let out for summer break on June 13. The other districts started anywhere from six to 12 calendar days prior to Labor Day. For example, in the Seaford School District, the first day for students in the current school year was Aug. 27, 2012. Their last day is June 13.
Dave Maull, a spokesperson for the Indian River School District, said the district has always maintained an after-Labor Day start date because it wants to be a good community partner.
"We have a lot of seasonal businesses in the beach area," Maull said. "We have always tried to honor the wishes of those businesses so they can have their workers in place and on duty for as long as possible. Labor Day is the official end of summer, and businesses in the beach area would like to have their workers."
Robert Fulton, the superintendent for the Cape Henlopen School District, shared a similar sentiment.
Page 2 of 2 - "We have many students involved in community businesses," Fulton said. "Because the community is so supportive of us, we feel this is a way to help them. Also, we think summer should be longer because sometimes it's cut too short."
Carol Everhart, president of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, which represents 1,300 businesses in the state's tourism sector, said the early start date creates serious staffing issues on one of the biggest weekends of the year, Labor Day weekend.
"We lose all those workers all at once when it's still so busy," Everhart said. "Once you have someone trained at the position and they know the ropes, so to speak, filling that is a challenge."
Everhart said understaffing or an inexperienced staff can spell disaster on a holiday weekend that draws more than 100,000 visitors per day to the resort areas.
"To service the visitor properly is vital," she said. "If the lines are too long, sometimes you leave. If the service isn't up to standard, you might move on. They must be serviced well if they're going to return."