School Board Tentatively Changes Inauguration Day Policy

School Board Tentatively Changes Inauguration Day Policy

MCPS could stay open on the holiday

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The Montgomery County Board of Education meets on Tuesday in Rockville.

Caitlynn Peetz

The Montgomery County Board of Education on Tuesday voted to “tentatively” amend a school district policy that requires schools to be closed on presidential inauguration days.

The vote came amid conversations about the district’s 2020-21 academic calendar.

MCPS is considering beginning classes before Labor Day for the first time in four years. The shift is 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.

The Montgomery County school board’s 7-1 vote on Tuesday makes a “tentative” change to the policy, and the draft with the updated language — stating that MCPS can be open on Inauguration Day at the discretion of the school board — will be shared for public feedback for 30 days. Then, the board will take final action on the change.

School board member Jeanette Dixon was the lone dissenting vote. She said she strongly feels Inauguration Day should be an MCPS holiday because it is “important for students to understand the importance of who is the president of the United States and to celebrate the election of whoever that person is.”

MCPS has been closed in recognition of three inaugurations, according to school board documents: twice for former President Barack Obama and once for President Donald Trump.

In 2020, Labor Day is on Monday, Sept. 7. MCPS is considering beginning the school year on Aug. 31, Sept. 1 or Sept. 8.

If school starts after Labor Day, the academic year would end June 22. If it starts before the holiday, the school year would end June 17.

“June 22 is extraordinarily late, especially if you think about the possibility of having to add in additional snow days,” school board Vice President Pat O’Neill said. “We could be faced with another snowmageddon. we don’t know.”

Student school board member Nate Tinbite said students he has spoken with prefer the calendar option that begins classes on Aug. 31.

The Montgomery County school board has said that starting after the holiday limited the number of days for professional development during the school year. It also caused problems for low-income families who struggle to afford child care during the summer.

Each calendar option presented Tuesday incorporates a weeklong spring break and full non-instructional days for professional development, grading and planning time at the end of each quarter. On professional development days, the staff would report to school, but students would not.

MCPS staff members cautioned that the options are “not intended to be finalized calendars but rather are a starting point for further refining,” according to school board documents.

The final adoption of the 2020-21 school calendar will happen before the end of 2019.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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