MCPS Superintendent Monifa McKnight presented her recommended 2023-24 school calendar to the Board of Education for approval today. The new calendar will include an increased focus on professional development for teachers while seeking to minimize students’ early release days, McKnight said.
Douglas Hollis, Jr. and Dana Edwards from the office of Chief of District Operations joined McKnight to provide additional details on the calendar’s creation and contents.
The calendar will again consist of 182 school days. School will begin on Aug. 28, 2023, in line with the current school year, and will end three days earlier on June 13, 2024. Winter break will be extended by one day. Both Thanksgiving break and spring break remain the same, with three days for Thanksgiving and a week for spring break.
Poinsettias donated by Sherwood High School’s student greenhouse lined the roundtable to welcome the new school board for its first official meeting since newcomers Grace Rivera-Oven and Julie Yang’s swearing-in ceremony last Thursday.
The meeting took place at Rockville’s Carver Educational Services Center on Tuesday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. A livestreamed broadcast was shared via social media.
McKnight said MCPS engaged in extensive community engagement efforts for feedback in drafting the calendar. Outreach efforts included both an online survey and in-person discussions, she said. Employee response to the survey increased by over 400% since last year, and student response increased by 1,000%, according to Hollis.
Board member Rivera-Oven expressed disappointment at the lack of racially diverse representation in the community feedback received.
“When I see 44 Latinos taking place in this survey, that’s not even one student per school,” she said. “It concerns me.”
She shared that traditional routes of communication like emails and web surveys are not always the best way to reach communities of color. She encouraged the board to think outside the box when it comes to future community engagement efforts, recognizing that low-income communities often face barriers to internet access.
Several calendar priorities emerged from the feedback received by MCPS, all of which McKnight said are reflected in the new calendar:
- Maximizing uninterrupted learning time
- Decreasing number of early release days
- Improving math and literacy skills
- Increasing staff professional development opportunities
A heightened focus on professional development aligns with suggestions from the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, according to Edwards. Maryland passed the 235-page landmark bill in 2021. The blueprint increased school funding and provided extensive recommendations for improving quality of education.
McKnight’s calendar includes six professional development days, three of which will be designated for districtwide out-of-school time days, Edwards said. Elementary students will be invited to participate in out-of-school activities at no cost to parents, while teachers participate in professional development training.
The calendar also reflects the recommendations of the county-wide Antiracist System Audit, Edwards said. Released in October 2022, the audit report found that MCPS students and families perceive staff as ill-equipped to facilitate conversations about race, history and the dismantling of racism “with nuance and cultural sensitivity.” Professional development opportunities will include focused training to address this gap, Hollis said.
After discussion, the board passed McKnight’s recommended calendar by a unanimous vote.
The next board meeting will be held on Jan. 12, 2023. Sign-up for public comments will open one week ahead of the meeting on Jan. 5.