After months of deliberation, the Montgomery County Board of Education finalized their calendar for the 2017-18 school year late last month at one of their business meetings.
The development of the school calendar is a complicated and grueling process that begins over a year in advance and is usually finished within around six months, around the start of the preceding school year. However, this was not the case for the 2017-18 calendar. Beginning their work on it in February of last year, the Board of Education took over a year to adopt a finalized version of next year’s school calendar, finally finishing on Feb. 27.
The calendar’s prolonged development can be attributed to Governor Larry Hogan’s Aug. 31 executive order that mandated that all Maryland public schools begin school after Labor Day and end prior to June 15. This order, intended to stimulate the state’s economy by providing families more time to spend at the state’s beaches, conflicted with the calendar the county had developed over the summer, which had the school year beginning in late August prior to Labor Day.
After their attempts to gain a waiver that would exempt the county from having to comply with Hogan’s executive order failed, the Board of Education developed an alternative calendar that would meet Hogan’s requirements. The Board of Education approved a new calendar in December, which they believed was in compliance with Hogan’s standards as the school year was set to begin post-Labor Day and end prior to June 15. However, while the last day of school was technically set at June 15, Hogan’s executive order requires that this deadline be met with the inclusion of make-up instructional days, used in cases of school cancellation due to extreme weather conditions. The Board of Education was unaware of this requirement, and as a result their initial calendar revision was rejected, further prolonging the development process. “The delay [in the development of the 2017-17 calendar] was compounded due to a lack of clarity in how the executive order intersects with the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) for school calendars, requiring additional guidance from the Maryland State Department of Education,” MCPS said in a statement on their website, explaining the cause of their calendar debacle.
After this rejection, the Board of Education continued to work closely with community officials and organizations, including the Montgomery County Education Association, Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals, and Service Employees International Union Local 500, to create a calendar that made the most sense for the county and met state requirements. Currently, the 2017-18 school year is set to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 5 and end on Tuesday, June 12.
Aside from the change in start and end dates, the 2017-18 school calendar differs from those of previous years in numerous ways. Next year the county has scheduled a total of 182 student instructional days, which is two fewer than this year but two greater than the state requirement. In addition, teacher will receive one half day more of planning time. However, while this year their planning time consists of three full days and two half days, next year it will be made of only one full day and five half days. Students also are scheduled to have three more half days than in previous years, which allows MCPS to meet the state requirements without having to shorten spring break. While these changes are not necessarily ideal, students appreciate the work MCPS put into developing the calendar. “I think Montgomery County did the best they could,” senior Jean Lyeo said.
Overall, the development of the school calendar has been a heated issues, putting Hogan at odds with MCPS, who has openly criticized his executive order. Hogan has expressed annoyance with MCPS and their reluctance to adapt to his changes. “You can have whiny people on school boards, it’s not going to change the fact that this is what’s going to happen,” Hogan said to wtop.com.
Senior News Editor