by Mallory Carlson ‘19
After Governor Larry Hogan passed legislation requiring Maryland public schools to start after Labor Day, finish by June 15, and include 180 days of instruction, MCPS took the school calendar structure into consideration. On November 14, the Board of Education made a final decision; the 2018-2019 school year will begin on September 4 and end on June 13, with 182 instructional days, an abbreviated spring break, and Thanksgiving and winter breaks staying the same.
The shortening of spring break is likely the most notable change, at least to students. Currently, it is a week long (preceding Easter). This school year, students and staff will be off the week of March 26-30, and April 2 (Easter Monday). But in compliance with the state mandate, the board has chosen to cut spring break; in 2019, the break will last from Wednesday, April 17 to Tuesday, April 23, a total of 7 days of vacation.
Many are unhappy with the choice to cut spring break, including some members of the board itself. “We should be leaving spring break intact … It’s the one thing I’ve heard from the majority of people that they want preserved,” said board member Rebecca Smondrowski, who cast the one dissenting vote.
The governor’s office continues to defend the decision, despite arguments that the change does not benefit students or teachers. “The overwhelming majority of Marylanders, including parents, students and teachers, support Governor Hogan’s efforts to return to common sense schooling scheduling, and for school administrators to pretend that starting school after Labor Day put religious holidays and spring break in jeopardy is simply dishonest,” said Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for the governor.
In other regards, the calendar is similar to the current structure. There will be half days in between quarters and a full professional day in between semesters. Schools will close on two Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as officials cite high student and staff absenteeism on those days. In addition, one professional day will be on June 5, the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr. Many citizens, especially those of the Muslim community, are pleased with the change, as families will be able to celebrate the holiday without the concern of missed school, but there is some disapproval surrounding the fact that the date is also considered a makeup day in case of snow.
Some teachers have expressed concern that there are not more professional days included in the calendar. “Our students need meticulously planned, dynamic lessons that use a variety of strategies. They need timely feedback so that they can improve. Students need attention and support,” said Richard Montgomery teacher Leah Wilson at the board meeting. “Student instructional prep time is essential to student learning.”