Montgomery Co. expands summer programs in response to later school start date

SILVER SPRING, Md. — In response to changes in the public school calendar, officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, said Wednesday that they will be extending summer camp programs to help families adjust to a new schedule.

The extension comes after Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order last year that requires, with few exceptions, public schools across the state to start classes after Labor Day and to end no later than June 15.

Montgomery County Public Schools traditionally started the school year on the first Monday of the last full week in August.

“The later start of the school year presented a challenge for many hardworking families who may not have an option to take additional time off from work,” said Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett.

Montgomery County’s recreation department said it has added more than 40 additional full or half-day programs to help families that have limited options for child care.

The cost of the expansion could be anywhere between $300,000 to $600,000, officials say. However, the county will get some of that back through fees that families must pay to participate.

Judith Docca, the vice president of the county’s board of education, said summer programs keep students engaged and prepared to learn. She said they also help those who depend on schools for some of their meals.

“While the board of education does not believe it was the governor’s intent to hurt families and children — especially low-income families — the delay in start time created by his executive order means more food insecurity and uncertainty for where children can spend this additional time,” Docca said.

“The department of recreation has extended their summer programs to help cover this critical gap,” she added.

Both Hogan and Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot have said starting school after Labor Day gives families more time to enjoy summer vacation in August, and will provide an economic boost to the state’s tourism industry and small businesses.

Hogan said the new start date would help schools save on energy costs — August is the second-hottest month on average in Maryland. The governor said the change could reduce disruptions in the early part of the school year when schools without air conditioning are forced to close on extremely hot days.

As school systems have been working to adjust their calendars, preparing for the change to take effect later this year, critics have questioned whether an extended summer break is the right move for students. They have also complained that it gives local education officials less flexibility and control over their districts.

In a statement released to WTOP in February, the governor’s office said, “Starting school after Labor Day is the right thing to do for Maryland families and students. It’s great news that the vast majority of Maryland jurisdictions are moving forward with this return to common sense scheduling.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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