Of­fi­cial touts tourism for sum­mer

Ocean City Mayor comes to Bor­ing, Md., to make it fun

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Ian Dun­can

Sur­rounded by car­ni­val games and beach food, Ocean City Mayor Richard Mee­han vis­ited the ham­let of Bor­ing on Satur­day.

“We couldn’t think of a bet­ter place to add some fun than Bor­ing, Mary­land,” Mee­han told the few dozen fam­i­lies that showed up at the back lot of the vol­un­teer fire com­pany, which had been made over into a beach. Or al­most.

“First thing we brought was the sun­shine, how does that look? Let’s hear it for sun­shine,” Mee­han said. “We couldn’t bring the ocean; we’re ex­pect­ing you to come down to Ocean City to see the ocean.”

Mee­han used the event to pre­view the last sum­mer sea­son that was ex­tended by Gov. Larry Ho­gan in 2016, and re­in­force the link be­tween the re­sort city he leads and the Bal­ti­more area, which he said sup­plies more than a third of its tourists.

“It’s a very im­por­tant part of our tourism base,” Mee­han said in an in­ter­view.

In 2016, Ho­gan is­sued an or­der re­quir­ing pub­lic schools across the state to ex­tend their sum­mer breaks un­til La­bor Day. The move, de­signed in part to boost tourism in Ocean City, was broadly pop­u­lar ac­cord­ing to polls, but some ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers wor­ried about how they’d fit their re­quired num­ber of teach­ing days onto the calendar.

And so last week the Demo­cratic-led Gen­eral Assem­bly faced down the Re­pub­li­can gov­er­nor to push through leg­is­la­tion that would re­turn the de­ci­sion about when to end the sum­mer va­ca­tion to lo­cal school sys­tems.

County school lead­ers have said they’re not likely to make any im­me­di­ate changes to this year’s sched­ule, but in fu­ture years stu­dents could once again be back in the class­room in late Au­gust.

Mee­han said he was dis­ap­pointed by the Gen­eral Assem­bly’s move.

“I think the start­ing school af­ter La­bor Day ini­tia­tive was suc­cess­ful,” he said. “We cer­tainly saw a large in­crease of busi­ness the last cou­ple of years. That last op­por­tu­nity for Mary­lan­ders to be able to spend some time with their fam­i­lies and kids be­fore the start of school.”

Mee­han said he didn’t en­vi­sion lob­by­ing in­di­vid­ual school sys­tems to stick with the longer sum­mer va­ca­tion but that he’d be watch­ing how the de­bate con­tin­ues to play out.

“I’m not sure the dis­cus­sion is fin­ished,” he said.

A Goucher Col­lege poll right af­ter Ho­gan signed the or­der found 68 per­cent sup­port for start­ing school af­ter La­bor Day. More re­cently, a poll this year from Gon­za­les Re­search & Me­dia Ser­vices found 56 per­cent of re­spon­dents sup­ported start­ing school af­ter La­bor Day, while just 40 per­cent sup­ported al­low­ing lo­cal school dis­tricts to make the de­ci­sion of when to start.

Af­ter the Gen­eral Assem­bly ini­tially passed leg­is­la­tion re­turn­ing the de­ci­sion to lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions, Ho­gan ve­toed the mea­sure cit­ing the pop­u­lar­ity of his pol­icy. But Democrats in the leg­is­la­ture then banded to­gether to over­ride the veto at the end of March.

Many of the Bal­ti­more County res­i­dents who came to the Bor­ing event Satur­day said they had long tra­di­tions of go­ing to Ocean City in the sum­mer.

Jenn Sch­nei­der from Up­perco said her fam­ily goes to a house there at the end of July every year.

“We pile as many peo­ple as we pos­si­bly can in,” she said.

But as for start­ing school af­ter La­bor Day, Sch­nei­der, 46, said she saw both sides of the ar­gu­ment — the eco­nomic ben­e­fit of a longer va­ca­tion and the po­ten­tial dis­rup­tion to stu­dents’ sched­ules.

“I’m right in the mid­dle,” she said.

Other par­ents had a stronger view. Jennifer De­moss — an Easter and Thanks­giv­ing vis­i­tor to Ocean City — said school should def­i­nitely start af­ter La­bor Day.

“The sum­mer’s done,” she said. “It’s just that feel­ing.”

Asked whether he thought school should start af­ter the long week­end in Septem­ber, De­moss’ 7-year-old son an­swered en­thu­si­as­ti­cally through a mouth­ful of food.

“Yeah,” he said.

BAR­BARA HADDOCK TAY­LOR/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Jennifer De­moss, left, watches as her son, AJ De­moss, blows up a bal­loon at the "Bor­ing Gets Fun" event.

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