School board considers new options for calendar
Governor’s executive order requires schools start after Labor Day, end by June 15
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.”