Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appeared to reject a request from Montgomery County’s school board to allow more flexibility in setting the last day of classes, suggesting that county officials have more pressing matters than “continuing to engage in this debate.”
Hogan's letter Thursday said an overwhelming majority of parents, teachers and students support starting the school year after Labor Day, as Hogan required in an executive order he signed in 2016.
The school district in the Washington suburbs has struggled to meet Hogan’s mandate, which also requires that classes end by June 15 — creating a calendar crunch that officials say has forced tough choices about days off on holidays and for spring break.
Montgomery’s school board wrote Hogan earlier this month urging he change his executive order so that the third Friday in June is the end of the school year. The change would allow for yearly calendar fluctuations. For example, June 15 is the third Friday in 2018. But in 2020, the third Friday falls on June 19.
The board said it was not asking for a change in when schools open.
But Hogan appeared not to be swayed. He wrote that Montgomery, the state’s largest school system, had recently approved a calendar that allows days off on religious holidays, while providing for spring break and two full professional days for teachers.
“Montgomery County accomplished all of this with a school calendar including 182 instructional days, two more than what is required,” Hogan wrote in the letter, addressed to school board president Michael Durso.
Hogan suggested that Durso “may have overlooked” a previous letter the governor wrote in March, rejecting a request from Montgomery. In that letter, Durso had more generally asked for a reexamination of the requirement that school end by June 15.
Durso said in an interview Thursday he was fully aware of Hogan’s previous letter, which Hogan enclosed in his response.
“We were hoping he might be willing to be a bit flexible on the end date,” he said. “He’s made his point clear, and we’ll do our best to work out the calendar and future calendars within those constraints, but it really is a bit of a challenge.”
In his earlier letter, dated March 29, Hogan swiped at the county board, saying its true motivation appeared to be “protecting teachers union contracts” that require “an unreasonable number” of professional days. He suggested the board consider shifting its focus “from arguing over which 180 days class is in session to ensuring that students are safe in your schools.”
The letter was written about two weeks after Montgomery County police charged two students with raping a 14-year-old classmate in a bathroom stall at Rockville High School. But those charges, prosecutors would later say, could not be supported by evidence. Prosectors dropped the rape charges in May.
Montgomery’s school board adopted a calendar for the 2018-2019 academic year that cuts spring break by two days, designates two full teacher professional days and continues its practice of closing schools on the Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.
School is scheduled to start Sept. 4, after Labor Day, and end June 13. In the 2018-2019 year, June 14 is a snow make-up day and June 15 is a Saturday.
Patricia O’Neill, chair of a board committee that considers the calendar, said the panel was seeking relief only at the end of the school year as it balanced competing priorities. She described Hogan’s reaction as “knee-jerk.”