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The Baltimore County school board considers the 2020-21 calendar at a meeting Nov. 5.
The Baltimore County school board considers the 2020-21 calendar at a meeting Nov. 5. (Taylor DeVille/Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore County schools will start the 2020-21 school year the day after Labor Day and end June 18, the school board voted Tuesday night.

The decision requires students to start school Sept. 8 and includes a five-day spring break from March 29 to April 2, 2021. If weather disrupts five scheduled school days, students could be in school as late as June 22, 2021.

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The scheduled holidays Presidents Day, Feb. 15, 2021, and Easter Monday on April 5, 2021, will be used as contingency days if weather closes schools before those holidays.

If inclement weather affects school for more than five days, students could lose designated holidays, have a reduced spring break, or continue classes beyond June 22.

The school board chose from three calendar options after school system staff proposed a pre-Labor Day start during a late September board meeting, beginning the 2020-21 school year Aug. 31 with a 10-day spring break.

The third option included a 10-day spring break, with the last school day June 21. Students and school staff get 10 days off in the spring during the 2019-20 school year.

In 2016, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan mandated that state schools start the school year after Labor Day; during the 2019 legislative session, the General Assembly voted to restore the authority of local education boards over school calendar decisions, overriding Hogan’s subsequent veto.

The board’s vote opposes school staff’s recommendation for a pre-Labor Day start. Eleven other school systems in Maryland have opted to begin their calendars before the summer holidays, said George Duque, a manager in the BCPS division of human resources.

With hotter summer temperatures and inadequate or nonexistent air conditioning at some county schools causing closures during the start of the school year, a pre-Labor Day start would have been “really inequitable” for students and deprive them of a healthy learning environment, school board chair Kathleen Causey said.

In September, Baltimore County schools were awarded $13.4 million from Maryland’s Interagency Commission on School Construction for temporary air conditioner replacements in seven schools.

The approved calendar also keeps two professional days, the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur on Sept. 28, and the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr on May 23, from being used as emergency closure days if weather closes schools, garnering support from faith leaders who had asked for the school board’s consideration of Muslim and Jewish holidays.

The school board voted to safeguard the religious holidays from being used as emergency closures days last month.

During a late October board meeting, members of the county’s faith communities asked school officials to recognize Muslim and Jewish holidays by closing schools on those days rather than designating them as professional development days wherein teachers must work while students have a day off.

The decision to protect Eid al-Fitr was a step toward accomplishing religious parity in schools, Dr. Bash Pharoan, who has long addressed the school board about religious holiday inequity, said after the meeting.

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