BOE con­sid­ers new cal­en­dar, year-round school pro­gram

Sys­tem of­fi­cials also hear from par­ents, Sal­is­bury study group

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

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.

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