COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – A growing list of South Carolina school districts are switching to ‘year-round modified’ calendars.

Under South Carolina law, a school district’s board can vote to change the district’s academic calendar.

The South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) monitors academic calendars statewide for compliance with state statutes and regulations. Currently, state law says the opening date for students must not be before the third Monday in August. There is an exception for districts operating on a year-round modified school calendar.

School boards can implement these calendars as long as they label the published calendar as a ‘year-round modified calendar’ and there is instruction for 180 days. With these calendars, most school districts begin class before the third Monday in August.

In a memorandum sent out to district superintendents in January, state education leaders wrote, “nowhere within state law does the SCDE have expressed authority over defining year-round modified school calendars; therefore, the SCDE does not define or approve year-round modified school calendars.”

According to the memo, schools operating these year-round calendars are only funded for 180 days of instruction and districts must have all statewide assessments completed before the statewide deadline.

They also wrote that when determining whether to operate a year-round calendar, district leadership and the local board of trustees should engage a broad and diverse group of community stakeholders.

During the typical ‘year-round’ calendar students would be in school for 45 days and then have two weeks off. Summer vacation would be shorter but there are usually more breaks throughout the year. There could possibly be remediation opportunities for students who are struggling during off-weeks.

The South Carolina Education Oversight Committee said they got some insight on these ‘year-round modified’ calendars from school officials outside of South Carolina. They said some of the lessons learned include collaboration with parents and community partners.

The committee says they are not making any recommendations to change state law at this time and were just looking for more information.

Supporters of these year-round calendars say it could lessen the summer learning ‘slide’ and help reduce staff burnout. Critics say the year-round calendar could increase costs and scheduling difficulties for families.