BOE ap­proves post La­bor Day school start

Dorchester Star - - FRONT PAGE - By VICTORIA WIN­GATE vwingate@ches­pub.com

CAM­BRIDGE — The Dorch­ester County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion ac­cepted a pro­posed 2017-2018 school cal­en­dar op­tion with a start date af­ter La­bor Day.

At the Thurs­day, Dec. 15, reg­u­lar meet­ing, District 3 board rep­re­sen­ta­tive Philip Rice made a mo­tion to be­gin school af­ter La­bor Day, which was sec­onded by District 2 rep­re­sen­ta­tive Glen Payne, and ap­proved by a unan­i­mous vote.

The board wished to be clear that their de­ci­sion was not due to the ex­ec­u­tive or­der handed down by Gov­er­nor Larry Ho­gan in Au­gust. The op­tion of a post-La­bor Day start was dis­cussed among the board prior to the ex­ec­u­tive or­der, and they con­sider their de­ci­sion to have been made au­tonomously.

The pro­posed cal­en­dar will be

posted on the Dorch­ester County Pub­lic Schools web­site, www.dcps.k12.md. us, and at the Cen­tral Of­fice, 700 Glas­gow Street, for the pub­lic to con­sider and com­ment.

A post-La­bor Day start for stu­dents was achieved mainly by ar­rang­ing pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment days at the be­gin­ning of the school year and the use of half-days for par­ent-teacher con­fer­ences. Hol­i­day breaks for stu­dents and teach­ers were not short­ened.

Un­der the pro­posed cal­en­dar, new teach­ers will be­gin on Thurs­day, Aug. 17, 2017, re­turn­ing teach­ers will be­gin on Thurs­day, Aug. 24, 2017, and stu­dent start dates will be stag­gered from Tues­day, Sept. 5, through Thurs­day, Sept. 7, 2017.

School would end for stu­dents on Wed­nes­day, June 13, 2018, and work for teach­ers would end the fol­low­ing day. Five snow days are built in to the cal­en­dar, and would be sub­tracted from the fi­nal num­ber of days if not used.

A to­tal of 193 work days for teach­ers and 185 days for stu­dents is planned.

Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools Dr. Henr y V. Wag­ner sug­gested to the board that they con­sider the de­ci­sion to start school be­fore or af­ter La­bor Day as a con­ver­sa­tion to be had each year. He said that, sta­tis­ti­cally, where La­bor Day falls for the 2017-2018 school year made the task of craft­ing a cal­en­dar eas­ier.

Ho­gan and Comptroller Peter Fran­chot held a press con­fer­ence on the Ocean City Board­walk on Wed­nes­day, Aug. 31, to an­nounce an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that would re­quire all pub­lic schools in Mary­land to be­gin classes af­ter La­bor Day and end by June 15 each year.

“Comptroller Fran­chot and I be­lieve, and the peo­ple of Mary­land strongly agree, that this ac­tion puts the best in­ter­est of Mary­lan­ders first, es­pe­cially the well-be­ing of our stu­dents,” Ho­gan said. “Most peo­ple agree that this is long over­due and that it is sim­ply the right thing to do.”

Schools are still re­quired to schedule 180 in­struc­tional days for stu­dents. Ho­gan said that coun­ties will be able to ap­ply for a waiver of the 180-day rule in the event of too many snow days. Sport sched­ules also will re­main the same, giv­ing stu­dent ath­letes more time to prac­tice be­fore the sea­son be­gins.

The ex­ec­u­tive or­der al­lows in­di­vid­ual school sys­tems to ap­ply for a waiver of the post-La­bor Day start re­quire­ment if they are able to pro­vide com­pelling jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. School sys­tems will have to ap­ply for this waiver an­nu­ally. Fur­ther­more, the State Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion will es­tab­lish pro­ce­dures and stan­dards for school dis­tricts and in­di­vid­ual schools seek­ing spe­cial waivers to ac­com­mo­date non-tra­di­tional sched­ules.

Dorch­ester County Pub­lic Schools does meet the nec­es­sary cri­te­ria needed to ap­ply for the waiver, but board mem­bers in­stead elected to be­gin school af­ter La­bor Day.

Fran­chot in­tro­duced his “Let Sum­mer Be Sum­mer” ini­tia­tive more than two years ago with a pe­ti­tion in sup­port of the change and a non-par­ti­san leg­isla­tive task force to in­ves­ti­gate the pos­si­ble im­pacts of such a change. The on­line pe­ti­tion has nearly 25,000 sig­na­tures to date, more than 10,000 of which were gained in the last month alone. Gov. Ho­gan also signed the pe­ti­tion.

Two in­de­pen­dent polls con­ducted by Goucher Col­lege found that 71 per­cent of Mar ylan­ders sup­port a post-La­bor Day start.

The Bureau of Revenue Es­ti­mates has said start­ing the school year af­ter La­bor Day could pro­vide $74.3 mil­lion in di­rect eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, $3.7 mil­lion in new wages, and $7.7 mil­lion in state and lo­cal tax rev­enues by push­ing back the school start date and giv­ing fam­i­lies more time for things like va­ca­tion.

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