DOVER, Del.- The Delaware Senate is considering a new bill that would mean a later start for schools in the First State. SB 161, which was released from the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday afternoon, would mandate that all school districts start after Labor Day weekend.
Sen. Gerald Hocker, who represents the Ocean View area, is the bill's sponsor and said that the benefits are two-fold. He said the change would both allow high school students to take on more seasonal work, and would also give resort areas in Sussex County an economic boost.
"Labor Day is now just an ordinary weekend for business because so many schools start prior," Hocker said. "And it hurts the economy of this state. It hurts tourism in the state."
Hocker said that the concept of the bill has a lot of history in Delaware, first emerging in May, 2013, when a task force was created to discuss the possible change. After five meetings, he said that they recommended the bill.
There has been opposition to the change, in particular from school administrators. Sussex Tech Superintendent of Schools AJ Lathbury was on the task force, and raised concern over the state control over scheduling.
"The bill in reference asks local school board to relinquish local control," Lathbury said. "Which most districts and school boards oppose."
All Sussex County school districts, with the exception of Cape Henlopen and Indian River, currently start before Labor Day, which means they would be impacted by the proposed change.
Sussex Tech School Board President Pat Cooper said the schedule should be up to the school district's discretion.
"I think the district knows the needs of the students," he said. "And what the family wants better than the state. And it's nothing against the state. It's just that they are looking holistically. And we are looking at our students at Sussex Tech."
Hocker said the numbers indicate why such a change is needed. He said that when Maryland made the change, it created $74.3 million in economic activity. At Grotto Pizza on the Avenue, Manager Jason Hoenen said every dollar counts before they head into the slow season.
"It would be really beneficial to the area," he said. "Because we get to keep our staff to the point that we need it. And because people would vacation here longer. So it will bring in more money for the town itself."