by Danielle Katz ‘18
Beginning in the summer of 2017, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan mandated all schools to open after Labor Day. While an extra week of summer may sound appealing at first, many concerns begin to arise as one takes a closer look at the decision’s year-round effects.
Over the past few years, regardless of its label on the calendar, religious holidays across multiple denominations have been recognized and school is not in session for some of those days. This accommodates students and staff who were put into personal debates choosing whether to sacrifice success as a cost for observing a religious holiday.
Although MCPS applied for a waiver to accommodate the days off for religious holidays in the new plan, Hogan’s restrictions regarding his law were clear. When he spoke with “the Washington Post”, he explained that “they had to show why they could not comply with the law, not just that they didn’t feel like following the law.”
However, his ineloquent response fails to recognize the sincerity of the community’s concerns. MCPS is a collection of diverse people with rich cultural backgrounds, and religious leaders in the community have advocated for receiving days off of school. Undermining this for economic gain displays a lack of holistic understanding of Hogan’s constituents and their complex needs.
Much of Hogan’s support comes from counties near Ocean City and the Chesapeake Bay that benefit economically from extended summer tourism. While economic prosperity is essential to the overall success of a community, it exhibits poor leadership to override other counties’ systems and priorities for financial gain in a few.
While the coast counties revel in their economic gain, some Montgomery County families, unfortunately, have no choice but to interpret the added summer days as days without food security. A substantial 33.2 percent of MCPS students receive free or reduced price meals. This program benefits thousands of families, but with the new mandate, the families will have to find a way to cope with the additional weeks of financial burden.
Next year, the typical spring and winter breaks will be significantly shorter. The flexibility in the new calendar shows that both spring and winter break could be as short as three days. However, students truly benefit from at least one week of break, as this spedup curriculum combined with a lack of breaks and days off will only increase stress levels.
As MCPS strives for a progressive future and reputation, this mandate only serves as a setback, undermining the value MCPS places on economic and religious diversity, and its binding nature proves detrimental to the county’s success.