The results of a Coastal Carolina University study surveying South Carolina parents on public school start dates and school term lengths indicate that 45.3 percent of S.C. parents believe that school should start after Labor Day. Of the 898 households from the state's 85 school districts that answered the survey, the second largest group, 34.6 percent, prefers a start date between
Aug. 20 and Labor Day. The smallest group of respondents, 20.1 percent, recommends starting between Aug. 2 and Aug. 20.
The survey, conducted by a CCU professor on behalf of the S.C. Travel and Tourism Coalition, is the first formal, empirical study to take account of parents' viewpoints on an issue that state legislators, educators and tourism officials have debated for years. Presently, S.C. public schools start on different dates during each of the five weeks in August.
The survey's second research objective addressed the issue of traditional vs. year-round school calendars. On this question, 72.1 percent of the respondents preferred sticking to the present schedule, which observes the traditional summer vacation, while 27.9 percent were in favor of a year-round calendar, with nine-week terms followed by four-week breaks between terms.
The 21-question survey was sent to 7,500 randomly selected residents with school-age children, according to study director Jerome Christia, assistant professor of marketing in Coastal Carolina University's E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration. The 898 returned questionnaires represent a response rate of 12 percent, which meets the statistical requirement for reliable data, according to Christia.
The survey also asked parents whether or not they would use the extra for a family vacation if school started after Labor Day. On this question, 43.7 percent answered "Yes," 11.7 percent answered "No," and 44.6 percent answered "Maybe." Asked where they would vacation if schools started after Labor Day, 52.3 percent said they would travel in South Carolina; 36.2 percent said they would travel to out-of-state destinations; and 11.5 percent said they would visit destinations both in and out of state.
The survey is the product of the first Ashby Ward Research Fellowship Award, a $9,275 grant for tourism research sponsored by the South Carolina Travel and Tourism Coalition. Christia led the study under the auspices of CCU's Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism Research and the Coastal Federal Center for Economic and Community Development.
"These are issues that affect the entire state of South Carolina, including families, institutions and businesses," said Gary Loftus, director of CCU's Coastal Federal Center.
The study also gathered demographic data from the respondents, who are employed in approximately 70 different occupations, according to Christia. Information was collected on area of residence, grade levels of students and the number of students in each grade per household. Head of household data was collected for gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, education level and household income.
Christia joined the Coastal faculty in 2000. He earned a Ph.D. in marketing from Oklahoma State University and an M.B.A. from Georgia State University.