2018-19 School Calendar Finalized

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2018-19 School Calendar Finalized

Amy Tran, Editor-in-Chief

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After considering four possible calendars for next school year, MCPS’ Board of Education (BOE) released the 2018-19 school calendar Nov. 14 with 182 instructional school days, starting school Sept. 4 and ending June 13.

School will be closed for non-instructional days Sept. 10 and Sept. 19 which coincide with Jewish holidays. Teachers will receive one professional day per semester: one Jan. 28 and the other June 5; the latter is a non-instructional day which coincides with the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr. As opposed to previous years’ 10-day spring break, next year’s spring break will be six days from April 17 to April 22, as two days are state holidays, two days are over the weekend and two days are non-instructional days.

“The overarching sentiment on the surface level was that we want to maintain spring break.”- SMOB Matt Post

“The overarching sentiment on the surface level was that we want to maintain spring break. It was challenging to recognize that if we wanted to keep things like Jewish holidays and at least some teacher professional time, it wasn’t feasible to continue having this full spring break,” student member of the board Matt Post said. “This is an unpopular compromise that other counties across Maryland had to grapple with since the [Governor’s] executive order.”

Under Governor Larry Hogan’s executive order requiring all public Maryland schools to open after Labor Day and end before June 15, MCPS struggled to fit state-mandated holidays and both instructional and non-instructional school days into the calendar.

The adopted calendar is a slightly modified version of the one suggested by Post. At the meeting, the Board also adopted member Patricia O’Neill’s suggested amendments of adding an early release day Jan. 25 and making all early release days required for grades K-12, rather than just K-8.

Since there are two more scheduled school days than required by the state-mandated 180-day minimum, the last two days of school can serve as potential inclement weather make-up days.

“As a former high school principal, I never really liked the half days, mainly from a standpoint that it didn’t seem like much got done,” BOE president Michael Durso said. “Attendance was down and sometimes there were a lot of teachers out. I just think that’s going to be a problem.”

Since the governor’s mandate, all counties including Montgomery have struggled to fit 180 school days into an already tight calendar that is often affected by winter weather. While shortening spring break seems to be the likeliest solution, it was among one of the many factors that generated a passionate response from the community.

“I don’t like the shortened spring break for next year, but I would definitely prefer starting school later with a longer summer than having a long spring break,” freshman Kara Mach said. “But I do like how our days off and half-days are scattered throughout the year.”

Though religious holidays are often a topic of conversation regarding the calendar, Durso said he is surprised that the Board did not receive much criticism this year regarding the June Eid-al-fitr closure date and other religious closures, as opposed to previous years’ backlash.

“I think some feel like we have no business in dealing with religious holidays and I think that others feel like we are being selective,” Durso said. “I think this will remain, as diverse as Montgomery County is, and I don’t see that shifting anytime soon and maybe even becoming more diverse, the holiday pieces will always be a challenge.”

Durso said he worries that next year’s election days and unforeseen inclement weather will strain the rigid calendar, and the decision-making process for future calendars.

At the meeting, Post suggested that the county administer a well-crafted survey at the end of the school year, to prevent issues with separation of church and state and to cultivate feedback from the community on which operational closures are most desired.

“We are sort of fumbling in the dark, making a lot of assumptions but not using a lot of data,” Post said. “Hopefully this survey will be a particular quantifiable justification for why we decide to have personal closures on some days versus other days.”

The Governor’s office has not directly been in contact with the Board, but the office did release a statement criticizing the Board’s handling of the situation, and claiming that the mandate is not responsible for loss of spring break time.

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