Attendance plummets in Howard schools on last days

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

Nearly 40 percent of Howard County School students weren’t in class on the final two days of school this week, according to data from the school system.

In April, the school board voted to extend the school system’s calendar by two days — June 18 and 19 — after the the county exhausted its inclement-weather “snow days.”

On Monday and Tuesday, about 63 percent of the district’s 57,000 students attended school. In the two previous years, more than 90 percent showed up for the final two days

State law requires an academic year of 180 days and Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order requiring all Maryland schools to open after Labor Day and end by June 15.

Howard County had seven inclement weather days during the school year. The county scaled back spring break to help make up the time, according to Jahantab Siddiqui, chief communications officer for the school system. The last three days of school were half days, a tradition in the county, Siddiqui said.

The last three days are traditionally half days, allowing high school final exams and time for teachers to file report cards, complete paperwork and break down classrooms.

Public schools in Maryland originally were supposed to let out by last Friday. But an unexpected number of bad-weather days this school year left Howard and some other districts unable to get the days in.

The General Assembly approved, and Hogan signed, emergency legislation this spring allowing districts to extend their school years for up to five days beyond June 15 to make up the snow days.

Michael Martirano, interim superintendent, said he was challenged by having to extend the school year.

“I’m very disappointed that we don't have the flexibility to do things different in that arena,” Martirano said. “Adding days onto the end of the year feels like an exercise.”

In the upcoming state legislative session, Martirano said he wants to see advancements in handling inclement weather days, including having “virtual snow days or inclement weather days” where students can complete assignments online.

For the 2016-2017 school year, about 91 percent of students attended the last day of school on June 14, according to the school system’s attendance data. About 92 percent attended the second-to-last school day on June 13.

The numbers for the last two days of the 2015-2016 school year only slightly differ from last year, with about 91 percent of students attending the last day, June 16 and nearly 93 percent attending the very last day of school on June 17.

With reporting from The Baltimore Sun

This story has been updated with additional details on end-of-year half days.

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