BOE considers new calendar, year-round school program
System officials also hear from parents, Salisbury study group
Charles County Public Schools is considering its options follow- ing a public survey on two calendar choices, and is looking into expanded summer enrichment opportunities and pilot a yearround school.
The school board discussed the options available to it during its Nov. 8 meeting. The board also received a report on student dis- cipline, received a report from the Business Economic and Com- munity Outreach Network (BEA- CON) of Salisbury University on the economic value of CCPS and heard from four parents and community members regarding the school system’s transgender bathroom usage policy and a lawsuit by school bus drivers and at- tendants alleging unpaid wages.
The school system was forced to revisit its approved 2017-18 school calendar after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued an executive order in late August mandating that school begin after Labor Day and end by June 15, while leaving the number of mandated school days and hours unchanged.
Deputy Superintendent Amy Hollstein said the calendar committee came up with two options to comply with the governor’s order.
In Option 1, the school system would shorten spring break to accommodate six built-in inclement weather days.
In Option 2, the school system would keep the week-long spring break, but only have three builtin inclement weather days. If the school exceeded that amount, it would have to reduce spring break.
School system officials noted
previously that the school system has exceeded three inclement weather days in four of the past five years.
Both plans change the Wednesday before Thanksgiving from a day off to an early dismissal day, Hollstein said.
“There wasn’t another day that we could give up, because we also have to end school on June 15. We wanted to make that Wednesday a full day off, but we couldn’t find a way to do it,” Hollstein said.
The school system conducted a public survey that received approxi- mately 1,800 responses, according to communi- cations assistant Shelley Mackey.
Of the responses, approximately two-thirds preferred Option 2, Mack- ey said.
“The top comments in favor of Option 2 were that students and staff needed to have two weeklong breaks during the school year, one winter break and one spring break,” Mackey said. “Some respondents didn’t like either of the options.”
The majority of respondents — 68 percent — favored starting school after Labor Day, Mackey said.
School board member
Margaret Marshall rec- ommended applying for a waiver to the governor’s executive order, but Superintendent Kimberly Hill said the governor is- sued a second executive order which clarified the conditions under which a waiver can be attained.
“In the second exec- utive order … districts requesting a waiver had to have at least two years in the last five years in which they missed more than 10 days of school due to inclement weather and we have not met that requirement,” Hill said.
Marshall objected to the governor establishing start and stop dates for schools.
“I know we need to uphold the law, but we also can question it, and I would certainly question this executive order, because we need to have some control and some voice in some of the things that we do,” Mar- shall said.
Hollstein said she is concerned that the ex- tended summer break will increase “summer brain drain,” particularly for students from low-in- come backgrounds.
“The research is pret- ty clear that the longer students have that lapse, the more difficult it is to recoup,” Hollstein said. “We have a lot of Title I students who really need to be in school for a lot of reasons and making that a longer vacation becomes a hardship, not only for the education of our students, but our families.”
Hollstein noted, however, that there was no way to require students to attend summer enrichment.
“We are looking to expand our summer enrichment opportunities, so we can maybe provide more opportunities for learning during that period,” Hollstein said. “We’re trying to come up with alternatives so our kids don’t suffer.”
Hill said the school system is tentatively considering the possibility of year-round schools.
“We really do want to look at the possibility of year-round schools, particularly for our students who do have additional needs,” Hill said. “My plan is that we bring together a workgroup of stakeholders to talk about what that might look like, how that might be implemented in Charles County, and we can look at piloting it at a specific school, and get the community on board, and look at how we might implement that.”
Hill said the governor’s executive order allows waivers for schools with innovative scheduling.
“In one way, the governor’s executive order makes us look at that, as a different way of scheduling school,” Hill said.