MCPS Revamps 2018-19 School Calendar: Teachers, Students Not Happy About Changes

Ibrahim Kaba, Staff Writer

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If students want one thing out of their school calendar it is a year filled with frequent breaks, while allowing teachers to introduce topics at a steady pace for thorough instruction and feedback. However, Gov. Larry Hogan, has seen fit to promote the opposite by requiring Maryland schools to open after Labor Day and close before June 15th.

To accommodate this mandate, MCPS and the other school systems have had to be creative in their scheduling in order to accommodate specific holidays, teacher professional days, and prepare for emergency closure.

In Montgomery County, the school board spent considerable time examining possible calendars to satisfy the Labor Day/June 15th mandate before settling on a final decision. In a letter to Governor Hogan, MCPS School Board President Mike Durso stated the effects of the mandate on the school system. Durso wrote, “ending school by this date has proven problematic for addressing emergency weather-related closings, as well as scheduling critical professional development and planning time for teachers.” Durso’s letter was a plea for a reversal of the mandate or an exception to the June 15th rule. The governor would have none of it, though, telling Durso – according to mymcmedia -“As other jurisdictions have had no problem complying with this Order in a way that addresses emergency weather-related closings, the true motivation for your concerns appears to be protecting teacher union contracts.”

The MCPS 2018-19 calendar cuts spring break to three days for the week leading up to Easter, April 1, with the Monday that follows, “Easter Monday,” as an off-day as well. This change was met with frustration from parents and students who consider a full week off during spring break to be not only the norm, but an essential break for students.

At Paint Branch, news of the calendar change was largely met with frustration. Tenth grader Julian Smith said,” I want a full week of spring break back.”

English teacher Mr. Smith’s chief concern with the mandate was the strain it placed on teacher planning and grading days. He noted,” the change hampers teachers ability to plan effective lessons for our students.”

Eleventh grader Josh Okonofua was un-phased by the decision to reduce spring break, saying simply, “I don’t care about spring break.”

At first glance it may seem easy to make a calendar, but Maryland school systems, specifically MCPS, must adhere to state and county mandates for snow days, Christian holidays, non-Christian holidays, and professional days for teachers.

According to the calendar section of the MCPS website, Maryland school systems must have the state mandated 180 instructional days, and observe the state-mandated days off for Election day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, MLK day, Presidents day, Easter, and Memorial day. School districts must show that the school year can be extended for three days, in case of make-up days for emergency closures, and still finish by June 15th. While this sounds pretty straightforward, when county holiday and religious observance holidays are added, things suddenly become more complicated. Which non-Christian holidays do the schools take off for student worship? Donna St. George of The Washington Post, found that Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah were given days off due to complaints from the Jewish community in the 1970s. The calendar will run out of space if another religious community gets a holiday off.

With the restrictions on the school calendar imposed by the governor, school systems went from having a fairly simple calendar with leeway for emergency closings and consistent breaks, to a schedule which must be closely scrutinized.

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MCPS Revamps 2018-19 School Calendar: Teachers, Students Not Happy About Changes