Schools to start af­ter La­bor Day in up­com­ing year

Re­vised cal­en­dar elim­i­nates spring break, re­stores pre-Thanks­giv­ing day off

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

Af­ter vot­ing last spring to re­store a six-day spring break, the Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion voted Tues­day night to take it away again, but re­stored the day off be­fore Thanks­giv­ing by re­duc­ing built-in in­clement weather days.

The ap­proved school board cal­en­dar be­gins Sept. 5, the day af­ter La­bor Day, and ends school by June 15, meet­ing an ex­ec­u­tive or­der is­sued by Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) ear­lier this year.

The school sys­tem was forced to re­visit its ap­proved 2017-18 school cal­en­dar af­ter Ho­gan

is­sued the or­der in late Au­gust man­dat­ing that in fu­ture years school must be­gin af­ter La­bor Day and end by June 15, while leav­ing the num­ber of man­dat- ed school days at 180. School hours are un­changed.

The school sys­tem’s cal­en­dar com­mit­tee pre­sented two op­tions at its Novem­ber meet­ing: Op­tion 1, which would shorten spring break to three days, but would ac­com­mo­date six builtin in­clement weather days, and Op­tion 2, which would keep the six-day spring break, but would only have three built-in in­clem- ent weather days, with the op- tion of re­duc­ing spring break if the school sys­tem ex­ceeded its weather day al­lot­ment.

Both op­tions changed the Wed­nes­day be­fore Thanks­giv- ing from a day off to a half day, but stu­dent li­aisons re­ported to the board that sur­veys con- ducted in their schools showed ap­prox­i­mately 80 to 90 per­cent of stu­dents fa­vored hav­ing that day off.

Stu­dent li­ai­son Ari­anna Heb­ner said she would pre­fer to lose an ex­tra day off spring break than the Wed­nes­day be­fore Thanks­giv­ing.

“I feel that if it’s closer to the week­end, that’s OK to lose,” Heb­ner said.

The pres­i­dents of the teach- ers’ union and the sup­port per­son­nel and ad­min­is­tra­tors’ union both said their mem­ber- ship pre­ferred the Wed­nes­day off as well.

“We also have an is­sue with the pro­posed cal­en­dar as the Wed­nes­day be­fore Thanks­giv- ing is a ne­go­ti­ated day off, as per our ne­go­ti­ated agree­ment,” said John Groat, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, County and Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees (AFSCME) Lo­cal 2981.

Board mem­bers said they also heard from par­ents, teach­ers and com­mu­nity mem­bers that hav­ing no school the Wed­nes­day be­fore Thanks­giv­ing was a pri­or­ity.

Board vice chair­man Michael Lukas rec­om­mended us­ing Op­tion 1, but re­duc­ing the num­ber of built-in in­clement weather days to five to ac­com­mo­date the Wed­nes­day be­fore Thanks­giv- ing as a full day off, a mo­tion that was ul­ti­mately ap­proved by the board 6-0 with board mem­ber Mar­garet Mar­shall ab­stain­ing.

“I think we got the mes­sage loud and clear that peo­ple don’t want to have school the Wed­nes­day be­fore Thanks­giv­ing, and I feel the same way,” Lukas said.

Board mem­ber Mark Craw- ford asked if Pres­i­dents Day could be a school day, but Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill said the school sys­tem would have to get per­mis­sion from the state.

Craw­ford, who ul­ti­mately vot- ed for Op­tion 1, ex­pressed dis- ap­point­ment in the short­ened spring break.

“Dur­ing the past year, we’ve heard peo­ple say they want spring break, and now we’re tak­ing it away,” Craw­ford said. “I know that as a teacher, the spring break was im­por­tant.”

Board mem­ber Vic­to­ria Kelly said she felt it was bet­ter to start off with­out a spring break than to have one that was de­pen­dent on the weather.

Board mem­ber Jen­nifer Abell asked if there was a way to keep both by elim­i­nat­ing in­clement weather days.

“Couldn’t we build in zero in­clement weather days and beg for for­give­ness later?” she asked.

Board at­tor­ney Eric Schwartz said the school sys­tem had to show “good faith ef­forts” in re­gards to in­clement weather days in or­der to ap­ply for a waiver in years with ex­ces­sive in­clement weather.

The newly ap­proved 2017-18 cal­en­dar can be found on the school sys­tem web­site.

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