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Harford schools expected to start after Labor Day next year, superintendent says

Harford schools expected to start after Labor Day next year, superintendent says
Harford County Public Schools superintendent Barbara Canavan tells local legislators the 2017-18 school year will start after Labor Day under a draft calendar she will submit to the school board next month. Board Vice President Joseph Voskuhl listens. (DAVID ANDERSON | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

Harford County Public Schools students will have a post-Labor Day start to school next year, based on the draft calendar that will be presented to the county Board of Education on Oct. 10, HCPS Superintendent Barbara Canavan told state legislators Thursday.

"We're proposing a post-Labor Day start," Canavan said.

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She was giving a presentation on the state of the school system before Harford's legislative delegation at the Abingdon Library. Legislators did not get a copy of the proposed calendar.

Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order Aug. 31 requiring public school systems across the state to start the 2017-18 school year after Labor Day, and end it by June 15. The Republican governor's order has been challenged by some local school officials, teachers unions and Democratic legislators. Hogan said extending summer vacation through August would boost Maryland tourism and would not adversely impact students or their families.

Canavan was asked about her school system's position on the post-Labor Day start by Harford Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, a Democrat.

"I think it's great that you guys grinned and bore it," Sen. Wayne Norman, a Republican, told Canavan, while noting that school officials in many other counties have been vocal in their opposition.

"You have to open your mind; you have to go back and revisit it," Canavan said of the process of creating the annual school calendar.

The superintendent also said she will not recommend that the Harford County Board of Education seek a waiver from Maryland Board of Education to start the school year before Labor Day, despite a recent announcement from the state board that it will expedite the application process.

"At this juncture, I am not recommending we request a waiver," Canavan said

She cautioned the legislators, however, that the nine-member school board might take a different position when the draft calendar is presented next month. The board has the final say on the calendar.

Although Hogan left the door open for the state board to grant waivers on a case-by-case basis, the governor's executive order requires "compelling justification," a Hogan spokesperson said Wednesday.

The proposed Harford calendar has been developed with input from the school system's calendar committee, which develops the proposed calendar each year and includes parents and religious and business leaders.

The superintendent said next year's calendar is "instructionally sound," and it "keeps in mind what the community has reported as being important to them for the past two decades."

The calendar is designed with multiple student testing days, plus days for teacher professional development.

"We're excited about it because it's good for kids and the community, and it is instructionally sound," Canavan said.

Liz Bowie and Michael Dresser of The Baltimore Sun contributed to this report.

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