A Youthful Voice...The Advocate Youth Page Schyler Angell

By SCHYLER ANGELL
Associate Editor,
Advocate Youth Page

Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have spent some of my summer days exhibiting livestock at local, county and the state fair. This summer has been no different, as I have shown pigs, goats and cattle all around mid-Missouri. Taking my livestock to the Missouri State Fair feels like the grand finale of my show season and summer vacation. After working every day with my livestock, it is rewarding to walk into the show ring and compete with 4-H and FFA members from around the state. However, many exhibitors are faced with the decision of attending the Missouri State Fair or their first days of school. I’m not alone when I say I have missed my first few days of school for the last five years!

This issue for students will soon be a thing of the past. The start date of the 2020 school year will face changes because a new bill has been signed by Governor Mike Parson.

The new bill requires that schools start no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day (the first Monday in September). The previous law stated schools could not start ten days before Labor Day but could choose to start earlier with proper procedure. For reference, this year I start school August 15, whereas next year the earliest start date under the new law is August 24. Some argue the bill is shifting control away from local school boards to the state. Not only will the school start date be affected under the bill, but school boards will have to consider athletic practices, standardized test dates, semester finals and the ending school date.

Like most regulations, the bill was received with both support and opposition. The bill will make setting the school calendar more difficult and strictly regulated, but the later start date is a good opportunity for the agriculture industry to take full advantage of the Missouri State Fair. I was lucky to have a phone interview with Mrs. Diana Duncan of Mountain Grove, Mo.

Mrs. Duncan is a teacher and mother of two boys that are active in showing pigs and sheep. She explained to me how her family is in a unique situation with both parents employed as teachers. Mrs. Duncan has had a challenging time attending the fair with her family because of the school schedule. In the last six years, her son Gentry has only been able to show his barrow one year at the state fair. Mrs. Duncan pointed out the fact that agriculture is Missouri’s number one industry and the Missouri State Fair is a showcase of this industry’s products. Mrs. Duncan also conveyed that summer and the fair can be a time of building relationships and youth education, even though the lessons aren’t in the classroom.

My FFA advisor, Scott Stone confirmed this saying, “As a 4-H volunteer and FFA advisor, I have had numerous students who have decided to not exhibit their projects at the Missouri State Fair because they would miss school. I always saw this as a missed opportunity to learn in a different setting. I am excited we as a state value the opportunity for exhibitors and citizens to participate in our state’s largest agriculture exhibition.”

I agree with Mr. Stone – not only will these students be able to enter their projects, but more families will have the opportunity to come to the fair and learn about agriculture. The Missouri State Fair has worked to create many opportunities for our more urban neighbors to see livestock, interact with 4-H and FFA members and support Missouri agriculture.

Supporters of the bill also point out that even if families travel elsewhere in the state, the extra week of summer vacation will benefit Missouri’s tourism industry.

When I first heard that school would be starting late my senior year, it was as if my childhood dream came true. I will no longer have to miss the first day of school, and I will have more time at the Missouri State Fair, which is one of my favorite places ever! Even for those who aren’t diehard “fair fans” like me, this new bill may create an exciting summer opportunity to visit the cattle barns, watch the pig races and eat a ribeye at the Missouri State Fair!