GENEVA-ON-THE-LAKE — Village council unanimously voted in favor of requesting the Geneva Area City School district return to opening school after Labor Day.
The resolution is not binding on the school district, but it does let the district know where council stands on the issue of a later first day of school.
The resolution said there was a strong connection between business owners and educators, and that business has provided “strong support for school funding and educators have helped create entrepreneurs and new business owners and have helped provide skilled workers to an expanding workforces.”
The resolution said Ashtabula County has created new jobs and growth opportunities in the wine and tourism industry, which often rely on students for summer jobs. It said Geneva and other Ashtabula County schools began their school year in mid-August, forcing student workers to quit their tourism related jobs during the first week of August.
The resolution said “businesses who earn their living from May to October incur serious losses from the exodus of student workers.” It also said starting the school year those two weeks before Labor Day has shown “no educational benefit to students, discouraged local employers from hiring students and threatened to undermine and erode the health of businesses, which support and pay school levies.”
Don “Woody” Woodward, who also owns several businesses on the strip, said he
helped draft and supported the resolution. He said he doesn’t expect much approval from local school boards, but he’s hoping for the best.
“The entire village council supports the position of helping student workers work for as long into the tourist season as possible,” he said. “We’ve spoken with the school board about this and they always say they’ll look into it, but nothing ever changes. We’re hoping they at least consider it.”
He said figures from the Ashtabula County Visitors and Convention Bureau show that starting the school year after Labor Day would be beneficial to local tourism — especially Geneva-on-the-Lake and wineries.
Ashtabula County Visitors and Convention Bureau figures said local tourism generates more than $435 million in revenue, $70 million in wages and more than $51 million in taxes yearly.
“A quarter of these amounts were generated solely in the month of August,” Woodward said. “In Geneva-on-the-Lake, tourism generated more than $1 million in wages in August 2017 alone.”
Geneva-on-the-Lake Mayor Dwayne Bennett said Ashtabula County residents need to understand that tourism in the county is growing and manufacturing is not. He said early school starts put a damper on many families’ incomes.
“We now rely on tourism to generate business,” he said. “These early school starts put a damper on not just student workers, but their families, too. We’ve met with the school board a few times to explain all of this, but so
far nothing has been done to change things. We’re hoping they
can at least understand why businesses and student workers
need a later school start date.”
Council President PJ Macchia said the school board needs to understand that early starts are “counter productive for everyone.”
“As tourism, agri-tourism and wineries
and the Spire are now an attraction, going back early puts a burden on student workers, their families and local businesses,” he said. “We rely on tourism and the school system needs to realize how important student workers are to our economy.”