OCEAN CITY,MD. -- University of Maryland President John S. Toll, bowing to increasing pressure from Ocean City merchants and officials, has endorsed a plan to delay the start of fall classes until after Labor Day to accommodate students with summer jobs at the beach resort.
Toll, who outlined the change in a letter to Rep. Roy Dyson (D-Md.) last week, said a change in starting dates must be endorsed by the Board of Regents, but he added, "I'm confident it'll be approved."
Classes this year are scheduled to begin Sept. 2, five days before the holiday, and he has proposed that the schedule change take effect in 1988.
But he said that students who work in Ocean City through Labor Day weekend this year "will not be penalized for missing the first week of classes."
The announcement was quickly welcomed by Ocean City officials and businesses, for whom students often provide a critical labor supply.
Ocean City Mayor Roland (Fish) Powell said he was pleased to hear about the new policy.
"It's something we've had a problem with for a long time," he said. "This'll be a big help for Ocean City."
"It's great for the whole city, and will have a tremendous impact on employment here in late August and early September," said Bill Salvatore, president of the resort area's Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association.
"I think it's tremendous that the university has agreed to this."
Added Lloyd Byrd, general manager of Phillips Crab House: "Employers have wanted this for a number of years. When an employer in Ocean City looks at a resume, he doesn't look at the name, age or even abilities. He looks at when they have to be back to school. Because of Maryland's early schedule, we've had to limit the number of students from there that we could hire."
Requests for a later starting date have been made by a number of officials, in particular Dyson and Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Toll said.
Employers, who have been facing an increasing shortage of youths seeking summer jobs, complained that they are often left short-handed at the end of the summer by the students' rush back to College Park for classes.
"This is the most positive response I've heard," Dyson said.
"We've had a critical problem with employment in Ocean City for longer than I've been a congressman, and the University of Maryland, because it's the largest postsecondary school in the state, sets the trends for others.
"Now some of our secondary schools are doing the same thing, and it's impacting negatively on Ocean City and the Labor Day holiday."
He added that "in the past, the university hasn't been as receptive as we would have liked" to requests for a change.
University officials have kept the early starting dates to complete the school year early enough to help students find jobs.
Toll said that it has been a university policy not to penalize students who begin classes late, as long as they are registered and make up the work.
"We've improved things in the last few years," Toll said.
"Classes used to begin Aug. 22, and we've begun them later in order to please Ocean City officials."
The new policy also will help Ocean City's Beach Patrol.
"We've had a problem for a long time the week before Labor Day losing lifeguards," said beach patrol captain Robert Craig.
University of Maryland students also seem glad about the change.
"This means we don't have to rush back in August, which is always a hassle for workers," said Susie Johnson, who works summers in an Ocean City amusement park.