by Lori Morrow
Update as of March 30: The Prince George’s County Board of Education voted unanimously last night to restore spring break. Schools will open on April 9. See the PGCPS press release here.
Clearly Mother Nature has her own agenda this year, and it did not include allowing spring to start on time. The late season snow, coupled with the recent “wind day,” are wreaking havoc with spring break plans for families and staff. Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) has announced that it will use both April inclement weather days that were programmed when the 2017-18 school calendar was created, as well as an additional day on April 4 (see PGCPS’s March 22 announcement here). The two days in June and one make-up day in February have already been used.
This year’s school calendar is the first since Governor Hogan’s executive order that mandated all public schools start after Labor Day and end by June 15th. The compacted schedule has created challenges for PGCPS administration and other districts around the state trying to balance instructional days with professional development, state-mandated holidays, and possible inclement weather. While Maryland law does have a process for waivers, the State Board of Education has not approved any waivers to the 180-day requirement yet this year.
Unfortunately we cannot control the weather, but there are two bills before the Maryland General Assembly that may allow for greater flexibility in future school calendars by modifying the June end date:
SB 729/HB 553 would authorize a county board of education to extend the length of the school year for up to 5 days without approval from the State Board of Education. The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate and is scheduled for a hearing in the House of Delegates at 1 PM on Thursday, March 29.
HB 679 would require public schools to complete the school year on or before the third Friday in June. This would help account for the variability in the length of the school year because Labor Day is not a fixed date. This bill passed the House with a 125-12 vote but has not been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate.
How can you help? Contact your State Delegates and Senators and ask that they support SB 729/HB 553. Phone numbers and email addresses are available online. You can also submit testimony by writing or in person for the March 29th hearing.