Amid uncertainty about Gov. Larry Hogan’s order that Maryland schools start classes after Labor Day next year, Montgomery County is looking toward creating two school calendars — one that starts in September and another in August.
The doubling up would give the community a vision of the school board’s thinking while officials look for greater clarity on the state requirement, said Patricia O’Neill, chair of the board’s policy management committee, which is scheduled to consider the issue Tuesday afternoon.
Montgomery’s school board typically takes final action on a calendar for the next school year each November. At the latest, a calendar must be adopted in December under board policy.
“We will put forward two calendars — one complies with the governor’s order and one that we really prefer,” said O’Neill, adding that officials will work to resolve the issue quickly. “I think we owe it to our community to adopt one as soon as possible because people need to make plans.”
Montgomery’s efforts to grapple with the state mandate come three weeks after Hogan (R) signed an executive order saying school systems must start after Labor Day and end by June 15, a summer-extending move he said would benefit families and provide an economic boost.
His edict left school systems scrambling. All but one opened in August this year, and some said they might have to cut back on spring break or certain holidays to meet the state requirement to start later and still end by mid-June.
There was another twist on the issue Friday, when the state attorney general’s office said in a 24-page letter Hogan may have exceeded his authority as governor in issuing the executive order about start dates.
Reacting to that letter, Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) said he would advise school systems to ignore the governor’s order and “set a calendar that is appropriate to them and their students.”
Whether systems will embrace such an approach is unclear.
In Montgomery, school officials will confer with district lawyers as they proceed, said Michael Durso, school board president. “I think it’s still a fairly confusing situation,” he said.
The Hogan order came as Montgomery was weighing a proposal that would have pushed its school-year calendar in the opposite direction — with an earlier-than-usual start date of Aug. 21 in 2017.
O’Neill said there was not strong community support for an Aug. 21 start date and she will no longer pursue the idea. She said she now backs a calendar that would start Aug. 28, a week before Labor Day, similar to previous school years.
Public reaction to the district’s 2017-2018 calendar proposal was strong, with more than 2,000 comments pouring in since June, said schools spokesman Derek Turner. About 1,900 were dated before Hogan’s order was announced, with several hundred coming in afterward; the system is still accepting feedback.
A sampling of comments, submitted to school officials following the Aug. 21 proposal, shows a range of opinion. Here are some that The Washington Post edited for space:
•I think starting a week earlier so that students are done with school the week after Memorial Day is a great idea. I went to school in the South and we went back to school in mid-August and got out at the end of May. By Memorial Day, students and parents are just drained.
• I teach IB and AP courses. This extra week will give us more instructional time before the exams. May not seem like much but it will help!
• Leave the school year alone!!! I do not see the reasoning for change. Take the school year back to starting after Labor Day and getting out mid June. Get rid of all the unnecessary days off!!!
• NO!!! Do not change! My children’s summer vacation should be the month of August. My family has a tradition the month of August especially that week. If so many families will be coming to school a week later. School should start after Labor Day or close or it!
• When considering the calendar, please consider the lives of families. Having a break from school is the most important time of the year. Do NOT reduce our summer by any more time. The pressure of school continues to grow along with anxiety and continued issues of children’s mental health.