The NC school calendar law is unfair to business owners like me


The editors and other contents of Opinion offer perspectives on issues important to our community and are independent of the work of journalists in our newsroom.

The students at Dominique Morrison's Honeysuckle Riding Academy in Monroe are lined up and ready to go.  Morrison is suing the Union County school system over its 2023-24 calendar.  She and others say that violates state law that dictates public school start dates.

The students at Dominique Morrison’s Honeysuckle Riding Academy in Monroe are lined up and ready to go. Morrison is suing the Union County school system over its 2023-24 calendar. She and others say that violates state law that dictates public school start dates.

Courtesy of Doninique Morrison

Almost every little girl dreams of getting a pony. That was my dream, and at the age of 6 my parents got me one. Since then, I have spent my whole life surrounded by horses. It seemed almost inevitable that I would work in that environment as an adult. I started teaching riding at the age of 12 and never stopped.

I grew it into a successful business and now own Honeysuckle Riding Academy in Monroe. June, July and August are my favorite months of the year. Camping season!

When I learned that the Union County School Board had adopted a calendar that started the school year earlier than state law allows, I was first crushed, then sick to my stomach. Nausea set in when I realized how much money my small business would lose. That’s why I decided to participate in the lawsuit against the school system.

Dominique Morrison.jpg
Dominique Morrison

By adopting that calendar, the school board basically took August away from small business owners like myself who run summer camp programs. As for me, the funds raised during August help keep my business going over the winter, and horse feed costs a lot during the winter months.

The camps are also important because they allow us to offer lessons throughout the year at a much lower cost than most to those who cannot otherwise afford to ride.

Due to the loss of income from camps in August, it will not only be the horses that will feel the negative impact. So will my children. The loss of this income will take a personal toll. In order to compensate for the financial loss, I will have to find time for additional activities on the farm. This change of calendar will take away the time I would have spent with my two children and my wife.

As a small business owner, I rely heavily on the Union County Public School System calendar. Parents were sent a tentative schedule and start date for 2023 for a vote in November 2022. The August 9, 2023 start date was not even mentioned in that survey.

In creating the 2023 camp schedule, I was guided by the law and what I saw in that survey of Union County schools. As a result, I face the loss of at least 75 potential campers in the summer of 2023.

I will lose additional weeks of camp due to the new end date of the 2023-2024 school year, May 22, 2024. Since Memorial Day falls right after that closing date, few families will send their children to camp during that week after school closes and before Memorial Day when many families go to the beach. I am heartbroken again.

The saddest thing about all of this is that the Union County Board of Education clearly broke the law and did so without any notice.

Parents like to register already in November of the previous year for camps. I feel like my job and others like it were completely forgotten when this decision was made.

By no means do I put profit before children. I’m just arguing that there are more lives affected by these types of decisions. It’s unfair that we didn’t have a chance to express our opinion.

It is also unfair that the state does not equally enforce its school calendar law. This gives the companies I compete with in nearby counties an unfair advantage.

This business is my family’s blood, sweat and tears. Besides getting that pony for my 6th birthday, my dream as a woman was to own and run a riding camp and academy business. The horse industry is tough and I’ve definitely had my challenges, but never challenges like this — where a group of adults can just pull the rug out from under us and not even address our issues.

I will stand up for our companies like mine and for what is fair. What I would simply like to see is for the Union County School System to follow the law. If they want to change the school calendar, do it in a fair and legal way. The example set for our children about breaking the law without giving business owners like me a chance to have an opinion is not an example to be proud of.

Dominique Morrison owns Honeysuckle Riding Academy in Monroe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *