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OUR OPINION: School start date a local issue and nothing more

We believe school in North Dakota should start after Labor Day. We think it’s a good idea because weather is unpredictable in mid-May up in these parts. Plus, it’s often chilly and rainy in the fifth month.

Meanwhile, August generally is dry and warm and great for swimming, picnicking and spending time at the lake. Fairs and farm shows are under way. School buildings are cooler in September than they are in August.

Labor Day weekend just seems like a logical and traditional climax to summer vacation.

The Grand Forks School District already is doing that, and the first day of classes this year will be Sept. 2 for grades K-9 and Sept. 3 for grades 10-12. In East Grand Forks, all classes begin Sept. 2. Labor Day this year is Monday, Sept. 1.

We like this later start, and yes, we think it’s a good plan for the rest of North Dakota to follow suit. But we don’t like the idea of a statewide vote to mandate a post-Labor Day start to the school year.

The Herald reported Thursday that a committee gathered approximately 16,500 signatures in hopes of bringing this issue to a statewide vote Nov. 4. For it to be placed on the ballot, at least 13,452 valid signatures were required and it needed to be filed with the secretary of state by Aug. 6. It appears those criteria were met, and now things look favorable for the issue to go before the voters.

We don’t like it. Not at all. And all the while, we do like the idea of a later start for the school year.

What gives?

This just isn’t an issue that should go to a statewide vote. Schools deserve a modicum of local control, and this decision should be kept at the board level.

In Grand Forks, school staff, parents and high school students took a survey on their preferences, and 66 percent of respondents said they prefer a later start date. The board then reacted.

That was the right way to go about making the change.

Actually, all North Dakota residents already can vote on this issue — when they choose the board members who serve each of the state’s school districts. The people who want a later school start date should first gather consensus in their respective district and discuss it with their board. If board members don’t agree, vote them out. There you go.

Not everything needs to be brought to some great, dramatic vote. This is one of times when control is best left in the hands of the people hired to handle these decisions. To us, a later start date makes sense, but it’s a local issue and nothing more.