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CCPS unveils proposed pre- and post-Labor Day start calendars for 2017-18

Carroll county teachers, students and parents react to Gov. Larry Hogan's order to start all Maryland schools after Labor Day.

Carroll County Board of Education members were left with questions and not many answers Wednesday night after a discussion about a post-Labor Day calendar.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, announced Aug. 31 from Ocean City's Boardwalk an executive order mandating that future Maryland school years can't start until after Labor Day. In addition, Hogan declared the school year can end no later than June 15.

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Superintendent Stephen Guthrie talked of the possibility of trying to waive these requirements. But, he said Wednesday, the issue is the board doesn't yet know what the state would require in granting a waiver. The state board has had no public discussion yet on possible procedures, he said.

"I don't know what the state board will set as their conditions," Guthrie added.

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One of the calendars presented Wednesday was based on a traditional late August start, while another was based on the first day of school coming after Labor Day, as required by Hogan's executive order last month.

The Board of Education did not vote on the calendars at Wednesday's meeting, but both will be posted on the CCPS website for public and staff review and input. A vote is expected in November.

In the first option, school would start on Monday, Aug. 28, and the last scheduled day would be Wednesday, June 13. Winter break, including Christmas and New Year's holidays, would begin Friday, Dec. 22, with students returning Tuesday, Jan. 2. Spring break would begin Wednesday, March 28 with students coming back Wednesday, April 4.

The second option features a post-Labor Day start Tuesday, Sept. 5, with the last day for students on Thursday, June 14. Winter break would begin on Christmas, Monday, Dec. 25, with students returning Tuesday, Jan. 2; and spring break would be shortened to only include state-mandated days off on Good Friday, March 30, and Easter Monday, April 2.

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Both calendars build in six emergency weather days, and professional development days for teachers on Sept. 22, Oct. 20 and Jan. 26. There are six early dismissal days for students, some with time for teacher development scheduled, others the day before Thanksgiving and the last day of school.

Gov. Larry Hogan, with Comptroller Peter Franchot and other leaders, announced Wednesday from Ocean City's Boardwalk an executive order mandating Maryland schools can't start until after Labor Day.

State-mandated holidays Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President's Day, Memorial Day are also included in both calendars, as is a day off for Jewish high holy day Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 21, 2017.

A second Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, that has been a day off for Carroll County Public Schools, does not take place in 2017 until Friday evening, Sept. 29, through Saturday evening, Sept. 30, and therefore is not included as a day off in the calendar since school is already closed on Saturdays.

The calendar also notes that parent conferences will be scheduled in the evenings on a school-by-school basis.

Should emergency weather days exceed the six allotted days built into the calendar, school would be made up on March 28, April 3, and June 14 and 15, in the pre-Labor Day start calendar. In the post-Labor Day calendar, make-up days for snow days would be June 15, 18, 19 and 20. The last day of school would be a two-hour and 45-minute early dismissal regardless of when it takes place.

In recent years, when school systems have exceeded the budgeted number of emergency weather days in their calendars, officials have requested waivers from the state. The state requires students attend 180 days of school unless a waiver is granted.

This waiver is the only one in law now, Guthrie said Wednesday. What can't be waived though, Guthrie said, is the hour requirement.

Gov. Larry Hogan made the annoucement at a press conference Wednesday afternoon on Ocean City's boardwalk.

But weather-impacted days weren't the only concern the board had Wednesday.

This calendar may work for this year, Guthrie said, but that's only because of how holidays fall, and because 2017 isn't an election year.

"While we may go along with this, we need to discuss and make known the issues in the future," Board President Jim Doolan added.

Plus, board member Devon Rothschild said, because the school system has a decently sized free and reduced lunch population, a later start date could mean problems.

"That's one more week that those kids are not receiving the nutrition," she added.

The move to a later start date, aimed at giving families more time together in the summer and boosting the state's economy, has left many parents and students thrilled, but school superintendents and teachers unions were upset that the governor usurped local control over school calendars. Democrats who control the General Assembly also objected, with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller calling the Republican governor's order "extraordinary and legally questionable."

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, a Democrat, is expected to issue a formal opinion on the matter.

Franchot launched a Let Summer Be Summer initiative about two years ago, and Hogan signed onto the idea shortly after he was elected in 2014.

Pollsters at Goucher College last year found that 72 percent of Maryland residents supported a statewide mandate to require schools to begin after Labor Day. Supporters said it would be better for families and students, that starting earlier didn't make sense, and that the school calendar should return to the way it used to be.

Traditionally, school districts began school after the first Monday in September. In many districts, the start date began to creep into August during the 1990s, as school officials grappled with a state-mandated 180-day instructional year.

State law still requires a minimum of 180 school days each year. Hogan's order says districts can get a waiver that allows some of those days to fall before Labor Day or after June 15, so long as they provide "compelling justification."

Wayne Carter contributed to this article.

emily.chappell@carrollcountytimes.com

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