Frederick County’s longstanding tradition of releasing students for a day at The Great Frederick Fair could be eliminated from the school calendar.
Parents and students interviewed at the fair on Friday were split whether a designated “Fair Day” is still necessary.
Nothing is final yet, as the school district’s committee that drafts the calendar still is considering which versions of it to present to the Frederick County Board of Education for approval.
But days off — like Fair Day — that have generally been built into the Frederick County Public Schools calendar may be cut to comply with an executive order from Gov. Larry Hogan (R) that public schools begin after Labor Day. This effectively extends summer by two weeks.
Though supporters of a post-Labor Day start, like Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) tout its popularity and significant economic benefits, it has drawn the ire of local school leaders who said Hogan did not consider the needs of local districts.
Elisa Kinnee, walked around the fairgrounds on Friday — the usual scheduled Fair Day — with a pack of children. Her daughter, Jordyn, a fifth-grader, had just seen a cow being born.
Kinnee, who works for Howard County Public Schools, said she favors a universal calendar for all of Maryland. She wouldn’t be bothered if Fair Day was taken away.
“You can just go after school,” she said.
Laura Robinson, a parent of Carroll Creek Montessori students, agreed. She would rather take her children out of school for a carload special, in which passengers of the entire car are admitted into the fair.
“It wouldn’t really matter to me,” she said.
Most students don’t actually visit the fair on Fair Day, said Riley Rooja, an eighth-grader at Gov. Thomas Johnson Middle School.
He shows cows at the fair the entire week and said the high attendance on Fair Day is “ annoying.”
His friend, Diego Tucios, also a TJ Middle eighth-grader, said Fair Day is “great” and the tradition is helpful.
Charletta Kern, whose children attend Middletown Primary and High schools, said Fair Day should remain on the calendar.
“It’s very important for them to see things out here,” Kern said, as her daughters peered into microscopes at an agricultural exhibit. “They have a great time and it’s so hands-on, which is what they need.”
Previous attempts to remove Fair Day from the calendar prompted displeasure from a faction of county residents, said Brad Young, president of the school board, and the proposal was rejected. Young was just beginning his tenure the board at the time it was suggested, around 2010.
Young said he wouldn’t support a calendar that didn’t include Fair Day. But he said he understood the limitations that come with Hogan’s order.
“It’s a great learning experience,” Young said. “It’s important for our students to see where our food comes from and the importance to Frederick County.”
He said revenue generated by Fair Day helps subsidize the rest of the roughly week-long fair.
Removing Fair Day would considerably affect the fair financially, said Joe Devilbiss, president of The Great Frederick Fair and the Frederick County Ag Society. He declined to discuss how much the fair brings in on Fair Day, but said the pseudo-holiday represents a “big day” for the children of Frederick County.
Students get in free to the Fair, Devilbiss said, but they and their parents spend money on rides, amusements and attractions.
“Every time something starts, the first thing that people go to is Fair Day, and that we’re going to take away Fair Day,” he said. “Education is our goal and we want to work with the education department to make that sure it doesn’t happen.”
“I’ll tell you what, if you try to take away Fair Day,” he said, “people are going to resist pretty well.”