Howard County school calendar proposals find inclement weather days during spring break 2019

Spring break in the Howard County Public School System for the 2018-2019 school year would be determined by the number of used inclement weather days, according to the Academic Calendar Planning Committee’s two calendar proposals, which also close schools for students on two Jewish holidays and open school on Presidents Day, Feb. 18, to accommodate the state mandate.

Ron Morris, a performance equity and community response officer who represents the second of three designated school areas, and Dave Larner, who represents area three, told the Board of Education Tuesday the committee worked on the proposals during eight meetings over the summer and included Gov. Larry Hogan’s mandate for Maryland public schools to start after Labor Day and end by June 15.

If schools operated on Presidents Day, the state would require a waiver request from the superintendent.

In their assessment, Morris said, the committee extended the number of days in the second and third marking periods to accommodate inclement weather between November and April. Three inclement weather days were designated throughout those marking periods, following the Maryland State Board of Education’s decision to accept waiver requests after three inclement weather days as opposed to the previous five-inclement weather day limit.

Winter break would remain the same, from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1, in both proposals.

Between the proposals, Larner said the length of spring break varies due to the placement of inclement weather days. In proposal one, there would be a six-day spring break from April 17 through 22, including April 19 and 22 as state-mandated holidays, Good Friday and Easter Monday, respectively. The first two days of the break — April 17 and 18 — are designated as the second and third inclement weather make-up days.

“If there were three inclement weather make-up days, those two days of spring break would be gone,” Larner said. “If there were two [inclement weather days], one of [those days] would go away.”

Proposal two follows “a more traditional Howard County spring break,” he said, with a eight-day break from April 15 through 22. However, all three inclement weather make-up days would then be on April 15, 16 and 17, creating a minimum five-day spring break if all inclement weather days were used.

“June 4 is set as the first inclement weather day in the first proposal,” Larner said. “If the June 4 inclement weather day is used, it would be a 3-hour early dismissal day for students and June 17 would become a full professional day for staff.”

Under the state mandate, schools must end for students by June 15 – which falls on a Saturday in 2019.

Schools would also be closed for students on Rosh Hashanah, Sept. 10 and Yom Kippur, Sept. 19.

Morris said state law requires 180 student days as well as a required number of instructional hours: 1,080 hours for elementary and middle school students, and 1,170 hours for high school students. The Howard County Education Association’s negotiated agreement states staff work 193 days – 13 more days than student attendance days.

Larner said proposal one and two accounted for seven and eight teacher workdays, respectively, before the start of the school year. Staff would return to school Aug. 23 through 31 in proposal one, while proposal two also included Aug. 22 as a teacher workday.

In January 2019, the committee proposed students have off on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Jan. 21, with high school-only, three-hour early dismissals for mid-term exams on Jan. 23, 24 and 25. On Jan. 28, all schools would be closed for students to allow teachers to work on report cards; however, in proposal two, Jan. 28 would be an early dismissal day.

Although in past calendars May 17 was a full day off for students, the committee proposed changing it to a half-day to work with the state mandate. Students would have off on Memorial Day, May 27.

School spokesman Brian Bassett said organizing the school calendar each year is “always a puzzle” depending on holidays, and the presentation to the board begins the process for public input and discussion.

“Howard County is representative of so many religions and cultures and every family should lend their perspective to the conversation so that we may be able to adopt the best possible solution,” Bassett said.

Schools would also be closed on Nov. 6 for the General Election; Nov. 7 for a teacher work day and first day of Diwali; and Feb. 5 for a countywide professional learning day and Lunar New Year.

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