MCPS Made Right Choice Extending Spring Break

Michael Carvajal, Staff Writer

After Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan implemented an executive order in 2016 changing the length of Montgomery County Public Schools’ (MCPS) school year, spring break was cut short for the 2018-19 school year. Late last year, the governor agreed to offer five buffer days at the end of the school year to factor inclement weather days. With this change, MCPS can now fix a problem that never should have existed.

While many can argue against the executive order, it is unrealistic to think Gov. Hogan will retract it. The executive order states that the school year can start no earlier than the Tuesday after Labor Day and end no later than June 20. Between these dates, there must be 180 instructional days, according to Maryland state law.

With Gov. Hogan’s extension of the year from June 15 to June 20 for MCPS, the county school board should reinstate the full spring break because of its negative effects on instruction, students and family schedules.

The schedule planned by MCPS not only shortens students’ spring break, but it may also have a larger effect on their learning and testing preparation throughout the school year. Teachers can find that the interruptions that come with the compact schedule often make it difficult to create effective lesson plans, English Department head Martin McCarrick said.

In addition to the restrictions on teachers, students need a full break.  They use spring break to make plans with friends, go on vacation and take time to rest and relax. Winter and spring break serve to re-energize students after long stretches of the school year so they can perform better in school and focus more on homework.

It is important for students to have breaks to engage in activities they enjoy. These activities help them feel energized, engage their creativity and reduce stress, according to the University of Michigan Counseling and Psychological Services program.  While a break means many different things for different people–sleep, vacation, hanging out with friends–the importance of having a full break is essential for students to return to school re-energized.

There are a multitude of complications with this school year’s calendar. MCPS has proposed two calendar options for next school year which the board of education (BOE) will vote on Nov. 13.  With maximum learning and student health at risk, the decision should be an easy one for the board–vote for scenario 1 which restores a full spring break and meets Gov. Hogan’s restrictions of a Sept. 3 start date and June 15 end date.  

Gov. Hogan’s restrictive calendar placed school systems in a tight situation but the BOE now has the power to fix this problem.