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In a reversal of the last three years, Harford school students could go back to school before Labor Day next year, on Tuesday, Sept. 1, a decision based on how late the holiday falls.

The school calendar for 2020-2021 presented to the Harford County Board of Education at its meeting Monday also includes fewer professional development days at the beginning of the school year that will instead be scattered throughout the year.

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“The largest conversation points are around the pre- and post-Labor Day start,” Jillian Lader, manager of communications for Harford County Public Schools and chair of the Calendar Committee, told board members.

If the calendar is approved as presented and the school year begins Sept. 1, the last day for students — if no inclement weather days are used — would be June 9. If the seven built-in inclement weather days are used, the last day would be June 18.

If school were to start after Labor Day, and the first day would be Sept. 8, the last day without using an inclement weather day would be June 15 and the last day using seven inclement weather days — “which we traditionally have in Maryland,” Lader said — would be June 24.

“Because Labor Day is so late, I’m in favor of the pre-Labor Day start,” said Chrystie Crawford-Smick, president of the Harford County Education Association and a member of the calendar committee. “If we pushed it back, we would have students in school significantly later in the month of June.”

The committee agreed Sept. 1 was a reasonable date — school still starts in September to give families the month of August to spend together.

Renee DeBiase, president of the Harford County Council of PTAs, also said Sept. 1 was a “good compromise.”

“Starting in August was not favorable for schools or parents,” DeBiase said.

School years for 2017-2018, 2018-2019 and this year have all started after Labor Day. The last pre-Labor Day start was in the 2016-2017 school year, when students returned on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016.

Earlier this year, however, the state returned control over the start date to the local school systems. The calendar for the 2019-2020 calendar was already in place and school officials did not change it.

The 2020-2021 Calendar Committee membership was approved in August and members met Sept. 9, when they reached a consensus on a calendar to submit to Superintendent Sean Bulson.

The proposal will be open for comment for 60 days, after which the school board can vote on it.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said he opposes the pre-Labor Day start.

“The Harford County ag community was very involved in the post-Labor Day start for a lot of our 4-H and ag kids and families that go to the [Maryland] State Fair,” said Glassman, who used to raise sheep. “I support the governor and comptroller’s position that they should work around it and not open before Labor Day.”

Members of the agricultural community in Harford have been waiting to see what the calendar committee recommends, then would “begin to organize folks to oppose it,” Glassman said.

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Calendar changes

Teachers won’t go back to school as early next year, if the calendar is approved, Lader said.

“There was quite a conversation around the need for those days to be in the school year as opposed to the beginning,” she said. “Plus, we wanted to ensure students had a few breaks throughout the school year.”

New teachers report to school on Monday, Aug. 24, for six professional development days, in the proposed calendar and returning teachers will return two days later for four professional development days to start the school year.

The remaining professional development days are scheduled throughout the school year — Oct. 16 (when schools would typically be closed for the Maryland State Education Association convention), Nov. 2, March 5 and April 6. The April 6 professional development day would be an added spring break day for students, who would already be off on Friday, April 2 and Monday, April 5.

Schools and offices would also be closed Sept. 28 for Rosh Hashanah, Nov. 3 for Election Day, Nov. 11 for Veterans Day, Nov. 26 and 27 for Thanksgiving, Dec. 24 to Jan. 1 for winter break, Jan. 18 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Feb. 15 for Presidents Day and May 31 for Memorial Day.

Three-hour early dismissal days for all students would be Sept. 25, Oct. 15, Nov. 25, Dec. 23, Jan. 15, Feb. 12, March 4, April 1 and May 21.

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