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Half a dozen people, including Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, brought their arguments for a post-Labor Day school start to the county’s board of education Monday night.

“The bottom line is, we respectfully ask that we start schools after Labor Day,” Glassman told the board. “Let summer be summer in Harford County and Maryland.”

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The Harford school board is considering the proposed calendar for the 2020-2021 school year, which includes starting school Sept. 1, the week before Labor Day, which falls on Sept. 7 next year.

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 all seven built-in inclement weather days are used, the last day would be June 18.

If school were to start after Labor Day, on Sept. 8, the last day without using an inclement weather day would be June 15 and the last day using the seven inclement weather days would be June 24.

The school system is soliciting public comment on the proposal through Dec. 13 and had received nearly 300 comments as of Monday, board member Tamera Rush said.

“We’re definitely listening. The majority of us were not on [the calendar] committee,” Rush said. “We’re trying to learn where we are and trying to understand what’s in the best interest of students and the community.”

Glassman, who read a letter to the board from Gov. Larry Hogan, and submitted another from Comptroller Peter Franchot, was joined Monday by Sen. Jason Gallion; Register of Wills Derek Hopkins, who is chairman of the Agricultural Advisory Board of Harford County; Bob Tibbs, a member of the executive committee of the Maryland State Fair and others concerned about starting school before Labor Day.

Besides students and teachers, the school calendar has an impact on families and businesses throughout the county and the state, Glassman told the board.

“We understand the challenge to start next year post-Labor Day because it’s late next year, but it can be done, other Maryland counties have already done so,” Glassman said. “There is no evidence starting school after Labor Day is detrimental to learning and teaching.”

It will let students with summer jobs make more money during one of the busiest weeks during the tourism season and businesses will get to keep temporary workers they rely on.

Tourism is the state’s 10th largest industry and starting after Labor Day increases tax revenue that is used to fund public schools, Glassman said. It adds $8 million to $16 million in state and local revenue.

Gallion said he has spoken with a number of people around the county, including parents, students, teachers, small business owners, “and the overwhelming majority prefer a post-Labor Day start."

About 68% of Marylanders supported starting school after Labor Day, according to a Goucher poll released shortly after Hogan’s 2016 executive order mandating a post-Labor Day start, before it was overturned by the state legislature this year.

More recent polling by Gonzales Research & Media Services earlier this year found 56% of respondents supported starting school after Labor Day, and 40% supported allowing local school districts to make the decision of when to start.

This week, Gallion said he talked to the owner of an ice cream farm store, who said they were encouraged to hire school-age students, but the have found it difficult when those employees can’t work up through Labor Day, a very busy time for them.

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“It’s the same for produce stand owners, who see a huge drop in business once school starts, but rely heavily on summer help provided by students,” he said. “I was one of those students many years ago and know what it’s like to work right up through the holiday and to be there to help that farmer and make more money for myself in the summer, as I was trying to start my own business.”

Starting on Sept. 8 would also allow Harford students who participate in 4-H and Future Farmers of America to take part in the Maryland State Fair through all 10 days, he said.

“It’s an opportunity providing students with beneficial learning experience outside of the classroom,” Gallion said.

Hopkins said a post-Labor Day start would be a win-win for everybody and the Agricultural Advisory Board voted unanimously against starting on Sept. 1.

Not only does it affect the 4-H, FFA and the state fair, but the small business owners in the agricultural industry “who depend on teachers who work with them through the summer to get through the Labor day crunch.”

Janet Archer, president of the Harford County Farm Bureau, spent 39 years teaching and knows the calendar can be made to work.

“I know you have ways of working around a lot of adversities, because I’ve experienced them,” Archer said.

Bridget Carven, a sophomore at C. Milton Wright High School, said she only has a two-week break at the end of summer, after club lacrosse, leadership camp, being a camp counselor at the 4-H camp, raising and selling sheep at the Harford County Farm Fair and a new STEM internship at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

“Starting school after Labor Day gives me time just for my mental health to slow down and take it easy and spend time with my family,” Carven said.

Starting school before Labor Day means that break would be shortened, she said.

The Harford school board could vote on the calendar as early as its Dec. 16 meeting. The calendar must be approved at least eight months before the start of the school year, said Jillian Lader, a spokeswoman for the Harford County school system.

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