New school calendar means a shorter spring break for Montgomery County

WASHINGTON —  Students in Montgomery County, Maryland, will have a shorter spring break under a new academic calendar that was adopted Tuesday by the county’s board of education.

The calendar cuts four days from spring break during the 2018-2019 school year, shortening it from 10 days to six. Spring break would be from April 17, 2019 to April 22, 2019.

“Developing the school calendar is an increasingly challenging process,” Superintendent Jack Smith told board members, pointing to an executive order from Gov. Larry Hogan that requires classes to begin after Labor Day.

Last month, Smith proposed giving students a shorter spring break for the 2018-2019 year, saying education officials were having a difficult time working around the governor’s order.

Board members expressed concerns about squeezing in traditional breaks and Jewish holidays with the executive order, which requires public schools statewide to start classes after Labor Day and end by June 15.

“Folks would really like us to have a full spring break, and I would love to be able to have a full spring break,” said board member Patricia O’Neill. “It’s just not possible. This is as good as we can do.”

Under the adopted calendar, classes are set to start Sept. 4, 2018 and end June 13, 2019.

Closures for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and a pair of teacher professional days will be included.

“I know that everyone is not going to necessarily be happy with the outcome of this calendar, but we’re playing the hand that we have been dealt,” O’Neill said.

Although education leaders have claimed the governor’s order puts constraints on their ability to form an academic calendar, Hogan’s office has repeatedly dismissed such concerns.

“It is disingenuous for Montgomery County officials to threaten Jewish holidays and spring break,” said Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse.

“Most jurisdictions have managed to adopt a common-sense calendar that prioritizes what students and families want, and Montgomery County could easily do the same.”

In neighboring Fairfax County in Virginia, the school board is considering a new calendar option for the 2018-2019 school year. Students would begin their 2019 spring break on Monday, April 15 and return to school April 22.

Currently, Fairfax County schools qualify for a waiver to start the school year before Labor Day. Like the current school year, the new calendar option would have students start school on Aug. 28.

The new calendar option will be introduced at the Dec. 7 meeting, with further discussion on Dec. 11 and a final vote on Dec. 14.

Nick Iannelli

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

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