Jennifer DeMoss, left, watches as her 7-year-old son, AJ DeMoss, blows up a balloon at the "Boring Gets Fun" event with an Ocean City theme at the Boring Fire Hall. They are from Reisterstown.
Jennifer DeMoss, left, watches as her 7-year-old son, AJ DeMoss, blows up a balloon at the "Boring Gets Fun" event with an Ocean City theme at the Boring Fire Hall. They are from Reisterstown. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Surrounded by carnival games and beach food, Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan visited the hamlet of Boring on Saturday.

“We couldn’t think of a better place to add some fun than Boring, Maryland,” Meehan told the few dozen families that showed up at the back lot of the volunteer fire company, which had been made over into a beach. Or almost.

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“First thing we brought was the sunshine, how does that look? Let’s hear it for sunshine,” Meehan said. “We couldn’t bring the ocean; we’re expecting you to come down to Ocean City to see the ocean.”

Meehan used the event to preview the last summer season that was extended by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2016, and reinforce the link between the resort city he leads and the Baltimore area, which he said supplies more than a third of its tourists.

“It’s a very important part of our tourism base,” Meehan said in an interview.

In 2016, Hogan issued an order requiring public schools across the state to extend their summer breaks until Labor Day. The move, designed in part to boost tourism in Ocean City, was broadly popular according to polls, but some education leaders worried about how they’d fit their required number of teaching days onto the calendar.

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And so last week the Democratic-led General Assembly faced down the Republican governor to push through legislation that would return the decision about when to end the summer vacation to local school systems.

County school leaders have said they’re not likely to make any immediate changes to this year’s schedule, but in future years students could once again be back in the classroom in late August.

Meehan said he was disappointed by the General Assembly’s move.

“I think the starting school after Labor Day initiative was successful,” he said. “We certainly saw a large increase of business the last couple of years. That last opportunity for Marylanders to be able to spend some time with their families and kids before the start of school.”

Meehan said he didn’t envision lobbying individual school systems to stick with the longer summer vacation but that he’d be watching how the debate continues to play out.

“I’m not sure the discussion is finished,” he said.

A Goucher College poll right after Hogan signed the order found 68 percent support for starting school after Labor Day. More recently, a poll this year from Gonzales Research & Media Services found 56 percent of respondents supported starting school after Labor Day, while just 40 percent supported allowing local school districts to make the decision of when to start.

After the General Assembly initially passed legislation returning the decision to local jurisdictions, Hogan vetoed the measure citing the popularity of his policy. But Democrats in the legislature then banded together to override the veto at the end of March.

Many of the Baltimore County residents who came to the Boring event Saturday said they had long traditions of going to Ocean City in the summer.

Jenn Schneider from Upperco said her family goes to a house there at the end of July every year.

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“We pile as many people as we possibly can in,” she said.

But as for starting school after Labor Day, Schneider, 46, said she saw both sides of the argument — the economic benefit of a longer vacation and the potential disruption to students’ schedules.

“I’m right in the middle,” she said.

Other parents had a stronger view. Jennifer Demoss — an Easter and Thanksgiving visitor to Ocean City — said school should definitely start after Labor Day.

“The summer’s done,” she said. “It’s just that feeling.”

Asked whether he thought school should start after the long weekend in September, Demoss’ 7-year-old son answered enthusiastically through a mouthful of food.

“Yeah,” he said.

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