With the new year in full swing, the Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education is already looking ahead to next year’s calendar, and potential problems with making the mandated start and end dates work.
At the school board’s most recent monthly meeting on Sept. 13, Superintendent Stephen Guthrie presented the BOE with two potential school calendars for the 2018-2019 school year, though he did not recommend one over the other.
“Neither calendar is a good one,” Guthrie told the school board, a point he emphasized again this week.
Guthrie said Wednesday, Sept. 20, he will rely on community and CCPS feedback before making a recommendation, adding that both calendars are out for feedback for 60 days.
The problem with this next year, he said, comes from the mandated post-Labor Day start and the mandated ending date of no later than June 15, something that came down from Gov. Larry Hogan in August of 2016 and was implemented for the first time this year. The school system was able to make this year work, but next year, Guthrie said, there are issues with getting the days to fit.
Next year, Guthrie said during the Wednesday board meeting, there are two Jewish holidays, it’s an election year and June 15, the last day schools can operate per the mandate, is a Saturday.
“That takes four days away that we had flexibility with in this current year’s calendar,” he said.
The first calendar option, which has the first day of school on Tuesday, Sept. 4 and finishes Friday, June 14, shortens spring break from one week to just Good Friday and Easter Monday, something that also happened this year.
It allows for four emergency closing days, which are used for bad weather. Only counting on four days is the bare minimum, Guthrie said, adding he “certainly” doesn’t think it’s sufficient.
“We have no way of knowing how many emergency closing days [we will need],” he said.
The first calendar also includes an Oct. 8 professional day for teachers, something Guthrie said they want to keep, but with that means teachers will finish their last day on Monday, June 17, something that isn’t ideal.
The only alternative, Guthrie said, is to remove the Oct. 8 professional day and put that onto the beginning of the year, bringing teachers back six days before school starts instead of five. This second option he presented has students ending on June 13, allowing teachers to end on Friday, June 14.
The Oct. 8 professional day is helpful for that time of the year, for teachers to reassess how things are going a month or so into school, so the additional day before school starts or bringing teachers back on the Monday after school ends isn’t particularly helpful, Guthrie said this week.
BOE members voiced concerns about what will happen if there is a lot of bad weather during the 2018-2019 school year, forcing the school system to close beyond its four planned emergency closing days.
“That’s cutting it close,” board member Bob Lord said of only being able to include four days.
Guthrie said the school system has the ability to ask for a waiver of the 180 days or a waiver of a public school holiday, though CCPS would have to pay holiday pay and the board agreed cutting more holiday time wasn’t a good option.
Board member Donna Sivigny echoed Lord’s concerns and asked if CCPS was sure a waiver of the 180 days would be granted if the school system needed to request it. Guthrie said while he has no way to guarantee the Maryland State Board of Education would grant the waiver, every time CCPS has asked, the waivers have been granted.
Even still, he said, there are many people who say the students should be in school for the required 180 days, to which CCPS school board President Devon Rothschild agreed.
“If the state believes — if we believe — that educating our students for 180 days is important, we’ve kind of been set up by the governor here to not really be successful,” she said.