WASHINGTON — It’s the question Montgomery County Board of Education member Patricia O’Neill hears everywhere she goes, from the doctor’s office to the grocery store: When school will start, and when classes will end next year.
“As soon as I know, you’ll know,” O’Neill said.
The school calendar is very much in flux because of the executive order issued by Gov. Larry Hogan last month. Under Hogan’s order, schools must start after Labor Day and end by June 15.
A Montgomery County Public Schools planning committee is working on how to comply with that order for next school year. The calendar that O’Neill said the board of education prefers would start classes on Aug. 28, a week before Labor Day. That calendar would require a state waiver.
But O’Neill said school board members are working on two other draft calendars. One would comply with the governor’s order. Another, like the preferred schedule, also would require a waiver because classes would begin after Labor Day but end after June 15, effectively extending the school year.
O’Neill said the county’s unique demographics have shaped the school calendar: from the Jewish holidays that are factored into each year’s plans, to the needs of working families.
“I know the governor has good intentions. But I have to say that we have 55,000 children here in Montgomery County on free and reduced meals. And I’m not sure that those families can afford an extra summer vacation—or any vacation,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill said reaction from parents has been mixed. She’s heard from some residents who agree with the governor that summer ought to follow the traditional calendar and that classes shouldn’t start until after Labor Day. But others have to scramble to provide child care as the summer extends beyond August, or who want their kids to benefit from the extra instruction that’s provided by an earlier start.
“We typically adopt a calendar in November; we must adopt a calendar by December,” O’Neill said. This year, the school officials started work on the calendar earlier than normal.