Carroll students could see two more weeks of summer vacation

Emily Chappell
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

Carroll students could see two more weeks of summer vacation this year.

For Allison Runkles, mother of a 14-year-old at North Carroll Middle School, that extra time means more activities, trips and family time. Runkles, of Manchester, grew up in the era when school always started after Labor Day.

"I've been a big believer in that," she added.

The combination of a post-Labor Day start to the 2017-18 school year and a lack of snow this winter is on track to produce a summer break that is two weeks longer than what has been the norm in recent years for students in Carroll and most of those across the state.

Carroll County Public Schools used its third snow-day — out of five built into the calendar — on Tuesday during the Nor'easter that dumped snow across the eastern part of the country, including 5 to 8 inches in the county. Schools had a two-hour delay Wednesday and Thursday.

Last summer, Gov. Larry Hogan announced an executive order mandating that future Maryland school years can't start until after Labor Day, which this year falls on Monday, Sept. 4.

Carroll's school calendar has kids set to finish the 2016-17 year on Wednesday, June 14. If there are no more weather-related closures, Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said that makes the last day — when students are dismissed nearly three hours early — Monday, June 12.

The school system has previously asked the last day to be waived if it's a half-day and falls on a Monday, Guthrie said, an option being considered again this year. It's "certainly a possibility," he said.

"There aren't many advantages to ending school on a Monday," he said.

Should that waiver occur, the current school year would end Friday, June 9, and the next would start Tuesday, Sept. 5, leaving 12 full weeks of summer vacation. That number has been around 10 weeks in recent years because of the pre-Labor Day start to school and more snow-days being needed.

Guthrie hasn't yet made a recommendation to request a waiver, though staff have begun talking about the idea. They're waiting out March and, if there are no more snow days, they will bring a request to the Board of Education at its April meeting, Guthrie said.

The school board would have to approve asking for the waiver, and then it would go to the state level for final approval. Guthrie said if the board approves it locally next month, it could go to the state Board of Education for its meeting at the end of April, giving the state enough time to approve it before the end of the school year.

"April would be the time frame that we would ask for it," Guthrie said.

If Carroll gets more snow, and uses another snow-day, Guthrie said, it all becomes moot. They wouldn't ask for a waiver if school ends on a Tuesday or a Wednesday.

But if there is no more snow and Carroll gets a waiver for that final day, students will get 12 full weeks of summer. And that's got some in the county excited.

While Runkles said the possibility of an additional week because of a lack snow on top of what comes from the governor's mandate is a "fluke thing," it works out for the best. It's better if schooling is more concurrent, she said, without multiple breaks or time off in the middle.

Kids, especially middle-schoolers, lose focus in the classroom if they're being interrupted with days off, she said.

"Once they're in, they should be in," Runkles said.

But while parents and students were mostly thrilled with the prospect of a later start after the Labor Day announcement in August, Carroll County Public Schools wasn't happy with the mandate and the loss of local control.

Still, Guthrie said the possibility of even more time off this summer would work out for the county. There are a number of projects, including roof replacements, that need to be completed over the summer break this year.

"It also gives another week for our maintenance and operations staff to do our summer work," he said.

emily.chappell@carrollcountytimes.com

410-857-7862

twitter.com/emilychappell13

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