It was a decision that brought feedback from thousands and was visibly difficult for Board of Education members, but the Board reached consensus on the 2020-21 Carroll County Public Schools calendar Wednesday at its monthly meeting.
The start of school for students will be Sept. 8, 2020, the day after Labor Day.
Winter Break begins Dec. 24 with Dec. 23 as a half-day of instruction. Students will return Jan. 4, 2021. Spring Break, including the state-mandated Easter holiday, will run from April 2 through April 5.
That puts the last day of school at June 9 if the school system uses no snow days. If all five are used, the last day of school for students will be Wednesday, June 16.
The Board reached a majority of the vote, though Patricia Dorsey dissented.
In 2020, Labor Day Falls as late as it can, Superintendent Steve Lockard said, making this year’s schedule especially difficult to craft.
“This is the toughest year. If we can make it work this year, it gets easier from here," Board President Donna Sivigny said. “This is an issue we’ve been struggling with and having significant conversations on."
One of the most-discussed decisions was whether to close schools for the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. The state does not mandate that schools close on that day. In 2020, Yom Kippur begins the evening of Sunday, September 27 and ends the evening of Monday, Sept. 28.
The Board decided that school would be held during Yom Kippur in next year’s calendar. They said that making that decision, they would need to make accommodations for students and staff who are absent to celebrate the holiday and make sure schools don’t schedule activities like tests and quizzes, or field trips.
The school board voted after taking feedback for 60 days on the proposed calendar and hearing recommendations from Lockard.
Community feedback was something “we heard much of,” Lockard said.
Multiple times in their discussions the Board members and Lockard acknowledged the difficulty of the decision.
“I’m fully cognizant we’re not going to please everybody,” Lockard said.
Before that, a School Calendar Committee committee surveyed almost 10,000 stakeholders when crafting three potential drafts for the calendar.
The committee brought three possible calendars to the Board of Education meeting in September with one calendar beginning two weeks before Labor Day, one the week before Labor Day and one the day after Labor Day in 2020. After Board discussion, they directed that the post-labor day calendar, with some further modifications, be put out for two months of public comment.
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This marks the fourth consecutive year with the first day of school in Carroll County coming after Labor Day. Previously, CCPS had begun school in August, starting Aug. 24 in 2015 and Aug. 29 in 2016.
Neighboring counties have been split on when to start. Howard County’s first day of school will be Aug. 25, almost two weeks before Labor Day. The Baltimore County school board voted this week to start Sept. 8, one day after Labor Day, even though school staff had recommended starting Aug. 31.
In 2016, Gov. Larry Hogan mandated a post-Labor Day school year start via executive order in an effort to boost summer tourism revenue in the state. But the Maryland General Assembly voted in March to return authority over calendar decisions to local school systems.
Lockard directed the formation of the School Calendar Committee composed of parents, employees, community members, Community Advisory Council members, and employee bargaining group representatives. That committee was tasked with recommending a calendar and as part of its process sent out a survey seeking community input, receiving nearly 10,000 responses.
The committee’s survey results showed that nearly 53% of respondents preferred to always start after Labor Day. About 23% preferred to always start prior. The rest wished to decide year-to year depending on how late in the year Labor Day falls.
Constraints for the committee included the 180 school days for students mandated by state law as well as the 193 days for 10-month employees and 240 for 12-month employees.
Baltimore Sun Media staffer Taylor DeVille contributed to this story.