Montgomery to have classes on Easter Monday, get a waiver of four snow days

Maryland education officials have granted Montgomery County a four-day waiver of instructional days lost to snow this winter, part of a plan that calls for county schools to be open on Easter Monday and the final day of classes to be held on Friday, June 13.

Wednesday’s decision was met with relief in many areas of Montgomery as parents anxious about summer camp plans, vacations or their teenagers’ jobs finally have a clear end date to a school year filled with inclement-weather closings and delays. Although the possibility of extending the school year into an extra week in June faded away, not everyone likes the makeup plan.

Cheryl Smelson of Potomac was frustrated that with Easter Monday less than three weeks away, Montgomery had scrapped the vacation day “out of the blue.” Smelson and her family have plane tickets for a holiday weekend with her son’s godparents in Atlanta.

“That’s just so unfair,” Smelson said, adding that her sixth-grade son had been proud of his perfect school attendance this year.

Maryland requires a minimum of 180 days of school, and most of the state’s districts closed 10 to 13 days because of the weather. In Montgomery, four emergency-weather days were built into its calendar and the county canceled classes 10 times, leaving a six-day shortfall.

Montgomery applied for a five-day waiver, hoping to add a day to the school year and leave Easter Monday intact. But state officials rejected that request, saying that the district had not done enough to make up for its lost days.

Connie Kiggins, a Chevy Chase mother of two, was one of several dozen Montgomery parents who wrote to state officials, urging that they require Montgomery to make up more of the lost classroom time.

“I’m glad the state board forced the county to go back and add an instructional day,” Kiggins said Wednesday.

Superintendent Joshua P. Starr wrote to school employees across the system Wednesday morning, saying he understood that “holding school on Easter Monday will be an inconvenience for many of our employees, students, and families.”

Still, Starr wrote, he and school board members “felt that this plan was the best way to ensure that we would make up two days of meaningful instructional time and cause the least disruption to our community’s summer plans.”

The school system planned to make automated calls to families of its 151,000 students Wednesday evening. It also posted the news on its Web site and sent it via newsletter.

“Everything is settled,” Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig said. Barring any new weather or emergency events, he said, “this is the final adjustment to the calendar.”

Tofig said that absences on Easter Monday would not be considered excused because it is now designated as a mandatory school day.

But Tofig said school officials understood the inconvenience and upset. “There weren’t a lot of options,” he said. “We thought this was the best way we could balance the need to make up instructional time and the need to respect parents’ summer plans.”

Tofig said that the school system avoids using Mondays as a last day of school, which is what could have happened had it not opened schools for Easter Monday. The district’s contingency plan called for days to be added at the end of the school year. “It would not be a meaningful day of instruction,” he said.

Joy L. King, a Silver Spring parent and PTA leader, said she is fine with using Easter Monday as a school day. “It’s one day,” she said. “They’ve been out of school so much.”

She added: “I think most of the parents are just really happy they won’t be extending the school year.”

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
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