After years of of starting school in early August, Hamblen County schools will start the 2020-2021 school year in July.

Hamblen County school officials said this week the reason for the July 31 start date is having several more days off within the school year, while also trying to balance state mandated rules that students are expected to be in school for 180 days in the year.

“Little things like that make a difference when you’re trying to squeeze in 180 days,” said Buddy Smith, assistant director at the Hamblen County Department of Education.

The next school year from 2020-2021 will have students back to school on July 31. Teachers will return to work on July 29 and have an in-service day on July 30.

One thing affecting the calendar slightly is there will be an election day on Nov. 3, which the school system has to plan around, Smith said.

The biggest factor, though, is the days off for Winter Break, which will be Dec. 21 to Jan. 1, 2021, Smith said.

School officials asked staff to look at two different versions of a calendar, plus a parent’s advisory committee.

One calendar they considered had less days off through the school year, but allowed more time for summer break. The other had more days off during Winter Break, but pushed the start time for school back to July.

Smith said that the majority of those asked, mostly educators, wanted a longer winter break, and a full two weeks off.

Smith said he does not remember a time when the school system has started in July.

“I know we’ve always been right on the cusp,” he said. “We’ve been close several times.”

He said another factor that plays a key role in developing the calendar is trying to make sure students are out of school by Memorial Day weekend. He said many parents don’t like their children in school past that holiday.

But, he said there is no trend, at this point, for Hamblen County schools to go to an all-year schedule.

“I don’t think it’s a trend,” he said. “We’ve been fairly consistent.”