The Montgomery County school board met last week in Rockville. Credit: File photo

For the first time in four years, Montgomery County students will return to classes before Labor Day next year.

The county school board on Tuesday afternoon finalized the academic calendar for the 2020-21 school year, which shows classes will begin on Aug. 31 and end June 16.

Schools will be open on Inauguration Day and closed for a professional day that coincides with the Muslim holiday of Eid. All were points of contention as the board built the calendar.

The 2020-21 academic calendar includes 182 instructional days. The state requires at least 180.

One full noninstructional day is scheduled for teacher planning and grading at the end of each quarter, and spring break will span 10 days.

The school district’s decision to start the year before Labor Day was possible because of new legislation overturning Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order of 2016 that required schools across the state to return from summer break after the holiday.


MCPS received more than 12,000 comments through an online survey, according to MCPS staff members. The majority of comments were from parents.

Most commenters preferred starting school before Labor Day and closing schools for Inauguration Day, when the U.S. president is sworn in, according to MCPS.

To have schools open on Inauguration Day in 2020, the school board last month had to update a districtwide policy that previously mandated the system be closed for the holiday.


The next Inauguration Day falls on Jan. 20, 2021. The school district is closed two days earlier, a Monday, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Some school board members and MCPS staff members argued that closing both days, and remaining open on Tuesday, would create an “awkward” schedule and possibly affect student attendance.

While the calendar received unanimous approval, board member Jeanette Dixon said she disagreed with students being in class on Inauguration Day.

“I will just go on the record in support of closing on Inauguration Day for lots of reasons related to history, the importance of the presidency and everything related to the Constitution and government,” Dixon said.


Recognizing Eid

In October, members of the Muslim community testified at a school board meeting urging the board to close schools for Eid.

The problem, MCPS staff members said, was that national test dates overlap with the holiday.


The College Board, which oversees Advanced Placement (AP) tests, set a two-week testing window that overlaps with Eid, which is on May 13, 2021.

In an email to Bethesda Beat in November, The College Board wrote that “to support students observing Eid-al-Fitr, we’ll be administering all exams planned for May 13, 2021, again on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.”

“I’m grateful The College Board recognized the implication on not only Montgomery County students, but Muslim students across the country,” school board member Pat O’Neill said on Tuesday.


Innovative school calendar

Two Silver Spring elementary schools will have an “innovative calendar” for a second year, as part of a pilot program testing longer academic years at high-needs schools.

Arcola and Roscoe Nix elementary schools will have a 210-day school year, beginning on July 6, 2020. The year will end June 14, 2021.


Following a stretch of instruction in July and early August, Arcola and Nix will have a break from Aug. 17 to 28, 2021, before resuming classes again on Aug. 31, in alignment with the traditional school calendar.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at