A few points about the proposed 2014-15 academic year calendar for Harford County Public Schools are worth making.
The proposed calendar, meanwhile, is available for public review and comment on the school system's website, hcps.org..
The school year is proposed to begin for students on Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 and conclude on Friday, June 19, 2015. The school system says it has gone to some effort to coordinate teacher in service days (that is to say days off for students) with school holidays to limit the number of three and four day weeks.
Indeed, the proposed calendar starts with a five day week prior to the Labor Day holiday weekend.
Consolidating student days off to limit scheduled partial weeks is a good move because it'll help maintain continuity of lessons. A combination of planned student days off and snow days can make for some real patchwork educational schedules in January and February, so maximizing five day weeks at this time of year is a good idea.
That brings up the second issue, namely that the school year is planned for 188 days, but students are obliged to attend for only 180 over the span of an academic year. The final week of school on the calendar (a full five-day week, by the way) is June 15-19, 2015. If the weather is mild, however, this full week could end up being bumped from the calendar, along with as many as three days of the previous week. Including eight snow days in the calendar also is a good idea, though it did result in a rather long academic year that includes five school days in August and another 14 days in June, presuming all the snow days are used.
In all, schools are closed for 21 weekdays, and students are away from school for another six staff development days when teachers are in school. A bonus for students on this front is that Thanksgiving week that year will be a full week off for students.
It remains to be seen if grouping student days off will prove to be a good idea, but it is certainly one worth trying.
Another point worth making in all this seems to be at odds with the points made in favor of maximizing the number of five day school weeks, but it is an important one nonetheless: Harford County Public Schools should find a way to be closed on Veterans Day.
This year the holiday (which is generally not observed as a Monday, but on the historically significant Nov. 11) fell on a Monday, which would have made for a long weekend. Regardless of what day it falls on, however, Veterans Day is an important civic observance nationally, and the ties Maryland in general and Harford County specifically have to the armed forces make the observance that much more poignant locally.
Maryland, after all, is the home of the Naval Academy, site of the penning of the national anthem and the donor of land for the federal district; Harford County is home to Aberdeen Proving Ground, a key Army installation for nearly a century, as well as the birthplace of Admiral John Rodgers, a vital figure in the early decades of the republic who led forces in early conflicts and helped shape the early U.S. Navy.
Given the level of coordination the school system has shown in putting student days off together in blocks, there's reason to believe they'll be able to find a way to close schools on Veterans Day, sooner rather than later.