In school calendar talks, board members suggest Veterans Day be a holiday for students

Two school board members last week suggested a change to the 2019-20 school calendar that would give students off on Veterans Day.

“Because quite frankly, the U.S Army is our largest single employer and we have quite a lot of veterans in our community,” Thomas Fitzpatrick, a member of the Harford County Board of Education, said at the Oct. 8 meeting.

The calendar for the 2019-20 school year was introduced to the board that night and was posted on the school system’s website, www.hcps.org, the following day. It will be available for comment for 60 days, according to Jillian Lader, manager of communications for the school system.

Board President Joe Voskuhl suggested that instead of students having off for professional development on Nov. 4, 2019 and an early dismissal Nov. 1, the early dismissal day be moved to Nov. 8 and the professional development day be Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

“That way students will be off, at least with their parents who have off, on Veterans Day,” Voskuhl said. “It’s something to think about.”

Lader pointed out that those early dismissal and professional development days coincide with the end of the quarter and parent conference for elementary school children.

The committee that puts together the calendar nearly a year in advance tries to schedule early dismissals around a school closure to give students a longer break, Lader said.

She also asked the board not to make a decision until she can provide members with information as to what lessons are taught in school on Veterans Day.

The 2019-20 school calendar starts on Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day as mandated by Gov. Larry Hogan last year. If no inclement weather days are used, the last day would be June 8, Lader said.

“I don’t anticipate June 8 will be the last day. I anticipate mostly likely at least one inclement weather day,” Lader said.

One of the calendar committee’s ideas was, when schools were closed for inclement weather, that work be sent home with students.

“That would really be a system wide change and we would be required to look at any equity issues we may have,” she said. “There was a lot of discussion and the committee determined not to move forward.”

It could be revisited later, she said.

When Hogan issued his executive order in August 2016, he also mandated that beginning in the 2017-18 school year, schools complete their required 180 days by June 15, which made for an unusually long summer vacation in 2017.

That was amended slightly this year by the Maryland General Assembly to allow school systems to go five days beyond June 15, if those days are needed to make up for inclement weather days, Lader said.

All of those days would have to be used before the state would consider granting a waiver to the 180-day rule.

This year, students could go to school June 17 to 21, if those days are needed as weather makeup days, and in 2019-2020, students could go to school through June 19.

Harford schools did not need to use this exception at the end of the 2017-2018 school year because all its makeup days were accounted for. School was out for the summer on June 15, Lader said.

Other highlights of the 2019-20 proposed calendar include an unusually long winter break, because Christmas is on a Wednesday.

Following an early dismissal Dec. 20, schools are closed from Monday, Dec. 23 to Wednesday, Jan. 1; classes resume Jan. 2.

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