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Reactions mixed after Hogan orders post-Labor Day start to school year

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

It became official Wednesday afternoon — Maryland schools will see a bit more summer starting in the 2017-18 school year.

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

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The move to a later start date, aimed at giving families more time together in the summer and boosting the state's economy, left some Carroll residents thrilled and others concerned about potential issues and unhappy with the decision coming from the state level.

For Teresa McCulloh, president of the Carroll County Education Association, the decision brought anger.

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

"Needless to say, we are disappointed in the executive order, a decision that should be made locally, not from the top down," the teachers union leader said. "There are other issues we should be focusing on such as proper funding, maintaining current programs and reducing testing."

And extended summer break doesn't necessarily help the students in Carroll County, she added.

Carroll County Public Schools parent Tara Battaglia wasn't happy with the governor's announcement either.

"I don't agree with it. I think it's fine the way it is [now]," she said. "It needs to be left to the counties."

And while it's been promoted as a way to increase family time, a later start could shorten other holiday breaks throughout the school year taking away family time anyway, she added.

"There is no benefit," Battaglia said.

Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said in an interview with the Times on Tuesday that he thinks the decision should be made locally.

Even after Wednesday's announcement, Guthrie said his previous thought of presenting two calendar options to the board still stands. That way, he said, if there is no pushback and the order stands, they'll be ready to go. He said there are still questions that must be answered, especially regarding possible snow days.

"Whatever the law of the land is we'll make work here," he said.

In line with a 2015 Goucher College poll that found 72 percent of Maryland residents supported a statewide mandate of a post-Labor Day start, most parents and students contacted Wednesday were thrilled with the announcement.

Carlee Cook, a junior at Winters Mill High School, was happy to hear about the governor's decision.

"I think that we need more summer time," Cook said.

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It could mean a longer preseason for sports, she said, and give more options for family vacation.

Winters Mill senior Myah Randall mirrored those vacation thoughts.

"I think that's a great idea. Because we only have one full month of no school at all," she said.

While a senior, Randall said her sister, Morgan, a 10th-grader, could benefit from the extended summer.

"We'll have time to … spend time together before I go off to college," she said.

Alfredo Padilla, who was picking up his kids at Cranberry Station Elementary School on Wednesday, was glad to hear the news. The announcement was a step in the right direction, he said.

It allows parents to plan the end of their summer vacations, he said. And it could benefit the economy.

"I think this provides an opportunity for the kids to really enjoy their summertime," Padilla said.

John Lowe, a Spanish teacher at Winters Mill, wasn't too worried about the change to scheduling. As a teacher who's been around for a while, he said, he remembers when starting post-Labor Day was the norm.

"For me, it's kind of like returning to what we used to do," Lowe said.

In his mind, it makes a lot of economic sense. What they'll need to see is if it makes educational sense, he said. Those days have to come from somewhere.

"As long as we're meeting international and state standards, that's my biggest concern," Lowe said. "Teachers have been having to make things work with hard constraints for a long time, so we'll just keep doing that."

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