Harford County Public Schools parents can view and comment on the school system's calendar for the 2014-2015 school year, a calendar that comes with eight days built in as makeup days for inclement weather.
Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications, told members of the Board of Education during their business meeting Monday that the 188-day school year was the suggestion of parent members of the Ad Hoc Calendar Committee.
The committee has 28 members drawn from the school system staff and the Harford County community, who are appointed by the school board.
Kranefeld presented a draft calendar to the board Monday; it will be posted on the school system's website, http://www.hcps.org, for public comment through the Dec. 16 school board meeting.
If approved, that school year's first day of classes for students will be Aug. 25, 2014.
School officials must provide students with at least 180 days of instruction, and with the built-in inclement weather days, the next school year is scheduled to end June 19, 2015.
"For every day that we don't use you'd be taking them off the end of the year," Kranefeld explained.
Inclement weather days are used if school must be canceled because of bad weather such as heavy snow storms, or in the case of the 2012-2013 school year, Superstorm Sandy.
Kranefeld said potential inclement weather days are usually laid out during the end of the school year, or within periods of the school calendar when students are already off such as spring break.
The prior school year ended three days early as school was canceled for six days during the year – three for Sandy and three more for winter weather.
The state granted Harford County Public Schools a waiver for the three days related to Sandy, and school officials used one day of spring break and two professional development days to make up the remainder.
Kranefeld said the built-in days allow parents to make plans for vacation periods such as spring break "without the thought that they may be taken away if we have inclement weather days, and that seemed to be a clear recommendation from the parents in the committee."
The draft calendar was displayed on screens for board members to see; Kranefeld noted testing days were marked in yellow, blocks of which appeared in almost every month on the calendar.
Nine assessment days were scheduled for October 2014, 12 in November, five in December, eight in January 2015, none in February or March, 13 in April, nine in May and four in June.
Five testing days have also been set aside in July.
The assessment days were grouped among days when students will be off for holiday vacations or during professional development for teachers.
Kranefeld said the goal was to create "full weeks" with the testing.
"It removes some of those scattered days within the calendar to allow for more full weeks of school," she said.
Kranefeld noted the challenge of creating the school year calendar with testing days built in, which board President Nancy Reynolds echoed.
"This is almost an impossible task, because so much is dictated to us [from state and federal governments]. especially with the new testing, the amount of testing," she said.
Board member Robert Frisch, who has taught in Baltimore County, also spoke to the difficulty of educating with so many days set aside for testing.
"It's extremely difficult to get any momentum, any consistency in instruction when you have these repeated breaks in schedule," he said.
Frisch praised the inclusion of inclement weather days.
"I think this is a much cleaner process and I think, in the end, people will find this is a benefit to them," he said.