Almost every little girl dreams of owning a pony. That was my dream and my parents gave me one when I was 6 years old. Since then, I have been surrounded by horses my whole life. It seemed almost inevitable that I would work in that environment as an adult. I have been teaching riding since I was 12 and have never stopped.
I’ve grown it into a thriving business and now own Honeysuckle Riding Academy in Monroe. June, July and August are my favorite months of the year. Camp season!
When I found out that the Union County School Board had adopted a calendar that started the school year earlier than state law allowed, I was first heartbroken, then sick. The nausea came when I realized how much money my small business was going to lose. That’s why I decided to get involved in a lawsuit against the school system.
By adopting that calendar, the school board basically takes August away from small business owners like me who run summer camp programs. For me, the money received in August helped my business get through the winter when horses were expensive to keep.
The camps are also important because they allow us to offer lessons throughout the year at a much lower price than most to those who may not be able to afford horseback riding.
It wasn’t just the horses that were negatively affected by the loss of revenue at the August camp. So will my kids. Losing this income will take a personal toll. To make up for the financial loss, I will have to find time to do additional activities on the farm. Calendar changes take away from the time I spend with my two kids and my husband.
As a small business owner, I rely heavily on the Union County Public School System calendar. Parents received a tentative timeline and start date for 2023 to vote in November 2022. The survey doesn’t even mention a start date of August 9, 2023.
In developing the 2023 summer camp schedule, I followed the law and what I saw in my survey of Union County schools. So I’m facing a loss of at least 75 potential campers in the summer of 2023.
Due to the new end date for the 2023-24 school year of May 22, 2024, I will lose the extra weeks of camp. Memorial Day follows that deadline, and few families send their kids to camp the week after schools close and Memorial Day, when many families head to the beach. Once again, my heart is broken.
The saddest thing of all is that the Union County Board of Education flagrantly violated the law without any actual notice.
Parents like to sign up for summer camp as early as November of the previous year. I feel like my company and others like it were completely forgotten in making this decision.
I never put my interests before my children. I’m just saying that there are more lives affected by these types of decisions. The fact that we didn’t have the opportunity to have any opinion is unfair.
It is also unfair that states do not equally enforce their own school calendar laws. This gave me an unfair advantage over competing businesses in nearby counties.
This business is the blood sweat and tears of my family. Besides getting that pony for my 6th birthday, it is my dream as a woman to own and run a camp and riding academy business. The horse business is tough, I’ve definitely had challenges, but never one like this – a group of adults who can pull a rug from under us without even addressing our concerns.
I will stand up for businesses like mine and what is fair. I just want to see the Union County school system follow the law. If they want to change the academic calendar, please do so in a fair and legal way. It is not something to be proud of that the law-breaking example set for our children does not give business owners like me the opportunity to provide an opinion.
Dominique Morrison owns Honeysuckle Riding Academy in Monroe.