Schools to start after Labor Day in upcoming year
Revised calendar eliminates spring break, restores pre-Thanksgiving day off
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.