The Montgomery County Board of Education announced Wednesday it strongly opposes Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to require public schools to open after Labor Day and close by June 15 beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.
Calling the executive order signed Wednesday afternoon by Hogan an attempt “to usurp local decision-making around school calendars,” board President Michael Durso said in a statement that “prohibiting schools from starting before Labor Day ignores critical issues faced by schools and the potential negative instructional impact on students. Determining the school calendar is complicated and requires balancing educational requirements, operational issues, and unique community needs all in the interest of students.”
Surrounded by Comptroller Peter Franchot and other supporters of the measure, Hogan signed the executive order during a press conference in Ocean City, stating the change will help Maryland families and businesses.
Holding his executive order aloft, Hogan says, "school after Labor Day is now the law of the land in Maryland." pic.twitter.com/8WmJ9b4B2I
— Erin Cox (@ErinatTheSun) August 31, 2016
“Starting Maryland public schools after Labor Day is not just a family issue—it’s an economic and public safety issue that draws clear, strong, bipartisan support among an overwhelming majority of Marylanders,” Hogan said. “Comptroller Franchot and I believe, and the people of Maryland strongly agree, that this Executive Order puts the best interests of Marylanders first, especially the well-being of our students. This action is long overdue, and it is simply the right thing to do.”
Franchot has long supported the idea of opening schools after Labor Day, primarily to benefit tourism, and a week before Hogan was sworn into office in January 2015, he signaled his own support by signing a petition started by Franchot.
The executive order requires public schools to begin after Labor Day, complete the 180 days that are required under state law, and adjourn by June 15, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, according to a statement from the governor’s office. School districts can apply annually to the Maryland State Department of Education for a waiver to be exempt from the post-Labor Day start date. The department will establish procedures and standards for school districts and individual schools seeking special waivers to accommodate non traditional schedules, the statement said.
MCPS has traditionally started schools before Labor Day, Durso noted. “Many years ago, MCPS did start school after Labor Day; however, since instituting the collaborative process, our community has consistently determined that it is in the best interest of our students to start school before Labor Day. Debates around when schools should start must occur and remain at the local level where there is a need for flexibility following community feedback and engagement.”
MCPS schools opened Monday. The school board was expected to vote in November on a 2017-2018 school calendar that would push the start date back to Aug. 21, two weeks prior to Labor Day. MCPS spokesman Derek Turner said Wednesday afternoon the school system wasn’t prepared to discuss whether it would apply for a waiver next year.
“I don’t think we’re at that point of the conversation. It’s too early to start speculating on that,” Turner said.