School board con­sid­ers new op­tions for cal­en­dar

Gov­er­nor’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der re­quires schools start af­ter La­bor Day, end by June 15

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

Charles County Pub­lic Schools is con­sid­er­ing halv­ing spring break in its 2017-18 school cal­en­dar to com­ply with an ex­ec­u­tive or­der by Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) two weeks ago, which now re­quires all school sys­tems to start af­ter La­bor Day and end June 15.

The school board has al­ready ap­proved a cal­en­dar for the 2017-18 school year, but now po­ten­tially has to re­draw to sat­isfy the man­date.

“While I don’t like what Gov. Ho­gan has done, and I ques­tion some of the le­gal­i­ties of it, it’s what we’ve got for right now, so we’ve got to deal with it,” school board mem­ber Jen­nifer Abell said dur­ing the board’s Sept. 13 meet­ing.

At the meet­ing, two pro­posed cal­en­dars

were pre­sented to the board.

“There aren’t a lot of dif­fer­ent op­tions, hon­estly, be­cause you only have so many days to work with,” Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent Amy Holl­stein said.

The first op­tion fea­tures six built-in in­clement weather days, but short­ens spring break to three days, in­clud­ing Good Fri­day and Easter Mon­day.

The sec­ond op­tion has only three in­clement weather days, but has a full six days off for spring break.

“That’s a lit­tle scary when you look at how many in­clement weather days we’ve used in the past five years,” Holl­stein said.

Under Op­tion 2, Pres­i­dent’s Day, Feb. 19, and the ad­di­tional spring break days would have to be used to make up ad­di­tional in­clement weather days as needed, Holl­stein said.

“We know that’s not a pop­u­lar de­ci­sion, be­cause teach­ers and fam­i­lies make va­ca­tion plans, and then we would have to change spring break,” she said.

The cal­en­dar also notes for ref­er­ence that only once in the past five school years has Charles County had less than four in­clement weather days.

In both cal­en­dars, win­ter break in­cludes six days off, in­clud­ing Christ­mas and New Year’s Day. The Wed­nes­day be­fore Thanks­giv­ing is changed from a day off to a half day.

Also in both cal­en­dars, Colum­bus Day would be a par­ent-teacher con­fer­ence day, and Vet­er­ans Day would be a day off for stu­dents and a pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment and plan­ning day for teach­ers.

The cur­rent year cal­en­dar gives six days off for spring break, in­clud­ing Passover, Good Fri­day and Easter Mon­day. The cur­rent school year cal­en­dar ends on June 16, with six in­clement weather days built in.

Pre­vi­ously, the school board had re­duced spring break, but re­stored it fol­low­ing pub­lic com­ments and sup­port ex­pressed in a sur­vey.

Abell urged her fel­low board mem­bers to con­sider Op­tion 1, with its ad­di­tional built-in in­clement weather days, “even though it goes back on what we’ve said we did not like, but I think our hands are be­ing tied.”

Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill sug­gested there might be other op­tions the board or com­mu­nity might rec­om­mend.

“There could be an Op­tion 3 or an Op­tion 4, based on what you think would be most ap­pro­pri­ate for our cal­en­dar,” Hill told board mem­bers.

When Ho­gan an­nounced his ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion on Aug. 31, he said school sys­tems could ap­ply for a waiver from the start and end dates; how­ever, board at­tor­ney Eric Schwartz said the waiver process has not yet been de­vel­oped.

“Ho­gan’s or­der asked the state board to de­velop a process for boards [of ed­u­ca­tion] to ask for waivers, but that process has not been de­vel­oped yet, we don’t know when it is go­ing to be de­vel­oped, and we’re not sure how the state board is go­ing to re­view that process,” Schwartz said.

Board chair­woman Vir­ginia McGraw said that she would pre­fer to wait on a de­ci­sion, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing po­ten­tial le­gal and leg­isla­tive ef­forts to over­turn Ho­gan’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der.

“I feel as if we need more in­for­ma­tion, es­pe­cially in re­gards to what the Gen­eral Assem­bly may send down,” McGraw said.

The board ap­proved Hill’s re­quest to sur­vey the com­mu­nity re­gard­ing the avail­able cal­en­dar op­tions.

“Time is on our side, and we can wait and see,” Holl­stein said. “But we thought that our com­mu­nity should hear some of the op­tions avail­able to us.”

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