Montgomery County Public School’s board voted unanimously to cancel classes on the day before Thanksgiving in Maryland’s largest school system, citing substitute teacher shortages and historically low student attendance.
During a school board meeting on Tuesday, interim superintendent Monifa McKnight proposed making Wednesday, Nov. 24, a holiday for students and staff. This change came 13 days before the holiday.
McKnight, who spoke of the hurdles of returning students to five days a week of in-person learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, pointed to a “national shortage” of substitute teachers and the fact that attendance tends to be lower on the day before Thanksgiving.
“We depend on our substitutes because, oftentimes, we know we have staff who need to take leave,” she said.
One parent, Jennifer Reesman, told the board that the decision was inconsiderate of parents who are essential workers and count on the school calendar as published.
“You just told us all that you don’t care about us,” Reesman said ahead of her planned comments.
One parent, Jennifer Reesman, speaking at today’s meeting expressed frustration “What you just did…to give families 13 days of notice? Have you no consideration…You just told us all that you don’t care about us” https://t.co/6VxNLTtHYy
— Kate Ryan (@KateRyanWTOP) November 9, 2021
Initially, Reesman sought to comment on the requests for supplies and staffing at the school in its development of a test-to-stay program.
Already, the shortage of substitutes has stretched teachers and para-educators thin, requiring them to cover other classes during their non-teaching periods.
“We do need to operate, but we need to operate with things in place to support students successfully,” she said. “We believe that that cannot happen on the day before Thanksgiving, given the data that we currently have.”
In addition, holiday travel often means lower student attendance on that day, too, she said.
The resolution also noted that the school calendar had two more teaching days than the 180 required by Maryland law, so the school system could afford to drop the extra day from the calendar.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.