The Montgomery County school board president was pleased this week to see progress on a state bill that would give his district and others more wiggle-room in designing their academic calendars.
The proposal sponsored by Sen. Nancy King of Montgomery Village would permit local education officials to extend the school year by five days past June 15 without seeking permission from the state. The measure would serve to soften the scheduling parameters that Gov. Larry Hogan has handed down to local school systems.
“So this is certainly helpful, and I think … that’ll give us a bit more maneuvering room, especially when we have an unpredictable winter,” school board President Michael Durso said Friday.
Schools are currently unable to extend the school year past June 15 for snow makeup days unless they receive a waiver from the state. As a result, Montgomery County Public Schools identified two spring break days as possible dates for catching up on instructional time lost because of inclement weather. MCPS didn’t end up having to shorten spring break, which ends Tuesday.
Durso and his colleagues have repeatedly urged Hogan to ease up on his requirement that classes start after Labor Day and end by June 15, saying the constraints make it difficult to plan the academic year. Up to this point, the governor has rebuffed them and blamed an excessive number of teacher professional days for the calendar challenges.
However, after the Maryland House of Delegates this week passed King’s bill, a Hogan spokeswoman said the governor is receptive to the legislation.
“It is accepted fact that the vast majority of Marylanders—including parents and teachers—support a return to a common sense school calendar that starts after Labor Day, an initiative that had strong bipartisan support long before Governor Hogan’s executive order. Recognizing that unforeseen inclement weather can happen—often frequently in our state—and schools occasionally need additional flexibility, the governor is supportive of Senator King’s legislation and will sign it into law,” said Amelia Chasse, the governor’s spokeswoman, in an email.
Durso said he doesn’t have any firsthand information about why Hogan is supporting King’s bill.
“I guess I would be hesitant to analyze the governor’s decision. He’s pretty savvy on these situations, and maybe he saw things in a different light. It is an election year; I don’t think that can be discounted,” he said.
The bill, timed to take effect July 1, has already been approved by the Senate but must return to that chamber for review of an amendment made in the House.
Bethany Rodgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.