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Maryland public schools to begin after Labor Day starting next year

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Posted on: August 31, 2016

BY KRISSI HUMBARD — Governor Larry Hogan on Wednesday signed an executive order that will require Maryland’s public schools to start classes after Labor Day, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. The governor made the announcement from the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland.

“School after Labor Day is now the law of the land in Maryland,” Hogan declared after signing the law, as supporters cheered.

According to a press release from Hogan’s office, the executive order signed Aug. 31 will require that Maryland’s public schools begin after Labor Day, complete the 180 days that are required under state law, and adjourn by June 15, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. The executive order does permit for a waiver to be applied for with the State Department of Education to be exempt from the post-Labor Day start date. For the 2017-2018 school year and beyond, local school systems will have to apply annually for a waiver based on compelling justification. Furthermore, the State Department of Education will establish procedures and standards for school districts and individual schools seeking special waivers to accommodate non-traditional schedules.

“This isn’t just a family issue. It’s an economic and a safety issue,” Hogan said.

Hogan touted the benefits of the later start date, saying that the measure “draws strong bipartisan support over an overwhelming majority of Marylanders,” Hogan said.

“The action that we are taking today will help protect the traditional end of summer, not only for families on vacation this week but also for the teachers and the students” across Maryland, Hogan said. He also pointed to the “safety of our children,” saying that a later start date will cut back on the number of days in hot, non-air conditioned classrooms and days missed due to the heat.

“This is just one way that we are changing Maryland for the better,” Hogan said, before signing the Executive Order.

Not everyone agrees.

Prince George’s County Schools released a statement saying: “The Prince George’s County Board of Education has long opposed efforts to preclude school systems from deciding whether to start instruction prior to Labor Day. Gov. Hogan’s announcement today raises more questions than it answers, particularly in regards to the mandatory June 15 end date. Many districts like ours would have to severely shorten our calendars to reduce spring and winter breaks, cut staff development days or eliminate non-state mandated holidays.

“Moreover,” the statement said, “the Governor’s action ignores the difficult circumstances our districts have faced in recent years from having to close so many days due to inclement weather, resulting in the need to extend the school year and add to the calendar. These concerns illustrate why decisions are best made by local communities with raising student achievement as the goal, rather than increasing tourism.”

Parents in Hyattsville had mixed reactions. Many responded on our Facebook page and the local listservs.

“I love the idea!! One last beach jaunt for my family,” said Danielle Wooten Rappel.

Nita Torrence, a former teacher offered an alternative, saying, “I always loved starting the school year the Thursday before Labor Day. It gives the students two days to meet teachers and find their classes, and lets teachers get all the classroom management stuff like needed supplies, explaining online textbooks and workbooks, handing out and explaining syllabi done so we can start the course content right off after the Labor Day break.”

Danny Schaible applauded the decision, saying, “I like the school year that starts after Labor Day. It’s too damn hot in DC in August to have the school year starting then. Plus Labor Day weekend makes a nice bookend to the summer vacation.” But added, “However, I do not think that there should be a net decrease in days, and if that is Hogan’s proposal, then I cry foul.”

Many parents wondered what would happen with closures for snow days, or whether there would be extra daycare or summer camps available. Some said they worried how lower-income families would deal with the decision. Others talked about how the longer summer break would affect students’ learning.

“Parents who struggle to find and afford child care will suffer; and don’t forget at Title 1 schools, kids get [two] meals a day that they won’t get,” said Rebecca Gitter.

Justine Christianson expressed similar worries. “I think it’s problematic. The ‘summer slide’ is a real phenomena, particularly among low-income students. Lengthening the summer vacation may be nice for parents who can afford summer camps and vacations, but there are lots of other families for whom this will be a hardship. For working parents, there is a real lack of summer camps in the later part of the summer since many are staffed by college kids who have to go back to school.”

Jodi Brooks Fiteny said, “this is also problematic for any student who struggles academically (whether they are diagnosed with special needs or not). The longer students are out of school, the longer it takes for some students to recoup their abilities. A longer summer could become a huge roadblock to maximum student achievement for all students.

Jen Larson Hanna said, “I think it speaks volumes about Hogan’s priorities. By which I mean — education is clearly not one of them. There is no educational benefit gained by making this change, and it will harm vulnerable children the most.”

Councilmember Bart Lawrence (Ward 1), expressed similar thoughts, saying the move “demonstrates to me that our governor places the special interests of a relatively small group of business owners ahead of the well-being of our school-age children. This move shows that public education is not a priority of the governor’s, despite what he might say.”

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