BOE Regains Autonomy Over School Calendar, Adopts 2020-21 Calendar

Elenna Mach , Editor-in-Chief

MCPS adopted the final calendar for the 2020-21 school year Dec. 3 after months of deliberation and consideration of student, parent and MCPS employee input. With a change in state legislation, school calendars are now under the jurisdiction of each individual county board with no restrictions on the start and end dates.

In the adopted calendar schedule, school will begin Monday, August 31, 2020, and end Wednesday, June 16, 2021. The calendar includes 182 instructional days, two more than the required 180 in Maryland, a 10-day spring break and a full professional day off at the end of each quarter. It also includes one operational closure in September that aligns with Rosh Hashanah and two additional professional days in the second semester in February and May that align with the Lunar New Year and Eid al-Fitr. Schools will be open on Inauguration Day.

“I am a lot more supportive of the 2020-21 school calendar than the calendars of previous years. This calendar is a step in the right direction,” junior Gabby Diaz said. “As mentioned by our SMOB, Nate Tinbite, MCPS is not allowed to officially close on religious holidays. However, with the new calendar, we are able to fit at least two religious holidays on professional days. Although there are several other religious holidays [on instructional school days], being able to accommodate the calendar to at least some people will provide a foundation for the years to come.”

To many MCPS families, starting school before Labor Day as suggested in two of the calendar proposals was a highly-sought component in regards to how to address emergency weather-related closings and professional development and planning time. MCPS received over 10,000 comments from concerned community members, Shebra Evans, president of the MCPS Board of Education (BOE), said.

“I support the changes especially starting earlier so that kids lose less over the summer; of course I love the longer breaks as kids and teachers need time to recharge during the school year,” history teacher Rene Shuler said. 

In March 2019, the Maryland General Assembly enacted the Community Control of School Calendars Act, overturning Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2016 executive order mandating schools start after Labor Day. The new bill allows Maryland school county boards to establish their own start and end dates for the instructional school year, which is why MCPS was able to propose scenarios that had considerable variations.

“The legislation was a step in the right direction and our school board is proud of the collaborative partnership we have consistently maintained with our state delegation,” Evans said. “We will continue the work to ensure local autonomy remains with local school districts.”

Among the three original proposed scenarios, the major differences included potential first and last days of school, whether school opened on Inauguration Day and different dates for professional development days.

The first proposal was the only scenario that set the first day of school after Labor Day, and the last day of school June 24. Schools would have remained open Jan. 19, but closed Jan. 20 on Inauguration Day.  In the second proposal, the first day of school was set for Sept. 1 and the last one June 18, including school closures for the presidential inauguration.

As the Instructional School Year Calendar has been controversial each year in Maryland, MCPS sought input from the community and stakeholder through a survey on their website.

“Actively engaging our stakeholders ensures we are aware of what’s important to students, employees and families while at the same time analyzing the data to come up with the best possible solution. We value the community feedback,” Evans said. “The board felt the final adopted calendar provided a good balance for everyone.”