New Bill Would Restore County Autonomy In Deciding School Calendar

Javier Lopez, Staff Writer

Maryland senators are fighting to overturn Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2016 executive order that requires Maryland public schools start after Labor Day and end by June 15.

State Senator Paul G. Pinsky introduced a bill Jan. 18 that would allow individual county school boards to determine their own start and end dates, allowing more flexibility to school calendars for snow days and holidays. The Maryland Senate approved the bill Feb. 12 and it now heads to the House of Delegates.

Though Gov. Hogan said he does not agree with the bill, he has agreed to let the people decide, putting a referendum question on the 2020 ballot on whether all schools should start after Labor Day.

But with the executive order currently still in place, MCPS has to decide which holidays and professional days can be allowed off in order for the calendar to fit the mandate. It’s hard for counties in Maryland to include holidays from all ethnic backgrounds in their communities.

“Montgomery takes the two Jewish holidays. Other counties don’t do that. So allowing the different counties to have the flexibility in their schedules is the better choice for the state,” social studies teacher Elizabeth Seabreeze said.

MCPS officials said they understand the needs of the community and agree that they should be able to decide the calendar for schools.

“Our commitment is to local autonomy, meaning that the local board of education should be able to decide when is best for our county to start and end school,” MCPS Student Member of the Board (SMOB) Ananya Tadikonda said.  “And right now that executive order doesn’t allow that.”

The 2018-19 school year calendar allocates students a six-day spring break, which is less than the usual 10 days which students and staff have received in previous years.

Many students said they want to see a change in the school calendar which would bring back a longer spring break. The class of 2021 student government association (SGA) president Gabby Diaz believes that there needs to be a change in the school year calendar for the 2019-20 school year.

“I would like to see less limitations on the number of snow days that we have, so that if we have snow days, we don’t have to shorten spring break,” Diaz said. “But, I’m fine with extending the school year one or two days.”