After overwhelmingly negative community feedback on a proposed Aug. 9 start date for the 2023-2024 school year, the Frederick County Board of Education on Wednesday approved a calendar that will have students begin Aug. 23.

According to survey results presented Wednesday night, 95 percent of 3,448 respondents asked about the draft calendar — which was first presented at a board meeting in October — were opposed to it. The most common reasons community members gave for their opposition were conflicts with family vacations, a lack of alignment with other district’s start dates and heat on school buses and in classrooms.

Out of 30 school administrators surveyed, only three agreed with the draft calendar dates. Most respondents said they preferred a start date after Labor Day and an end date in early to mid June.

This school year, Frederick County’s start date of Aug. 18 was the earliest of any school system in the state. Next school year is set to begin Aug. 17.

The idea behind the Aug. 9 start date, Cuppett said, was to move FCPS closer to a calendar where the first semester ends before students leave for winter break. Under the current system, the second semester or third term of the year begins about two weeks after students return from winter break.

Plus, he said, starting earlier would allow students to begin summer break in late May. Cuppett also said the board’s calendar committee considered spring semester Advanced Placement students, who would get more instructional days before exams began with the Aug. 9 start date, and dual enrollment students, who would see their schedules match up more with Frederick Community College’s calendar.

Under the current calendar, students taking AP classes in the spring have 67 days of class time before AP testing starts. A start date of Aug. 23 means they will have 65 days. The Aug. 9 start date would have allowed them 77 days.

The board considered three calendars Wednesday night — the original Aug. 9 start date, the chosen Aug. 23 start date, and a middle-ground option with an Aug. 16 start date. Board president Brad Young and members Jay Mason and Karen Yoho favored the Aug. 16 option, calling it a compromise between competing priorities.

They were ultimately outweighed by their colleagues Sue Johnson, Jason Johnson, Liz Barrett and David Bass.

Barrett said she was skeptical that three or four more days of AP instruction time were worth trading an extra week at the end of summer break. She also argued it wasn’t the right time to prioritize large-scale shifts, like moving toward a first semester that ends before winter break.

“We have so much going on right now,” Barrett said. “I really feel like this is a bad time, the next three years, to throw another thing at our community, at our teachers, at our students.”

Community survey respondents also took issue with drafting the calendar around the small percentage of FCPS’ total student body that enrolls in spring AP classes.

Jamie Brennan, mom of a high school freshman, and Rachel Sorenson, a third grade teacher at Tuscarora Elementary School, each spoke in favor of the Aug. 23 start date.

Several board members expressed agreement with the community’s sentiment that Aug. 9 was too early.

“We were already earlier than every other school system in Maryland,” Yoho said. “To go out that much earlier did seem to be a stretch too far.”

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek

Education reporter

Jillian Atelsek covers education for The Frederick News-Post. She grew up near Woodsboro, attended Walkersville High School and graduated from the University of Maryland in 2020 with degrees in journalism and history.

(3) comments

Boomer631B

Be careful who you said were screaming... the start date being late August seems good since it has been late August and early September for some time now... this idea of being between marking periods as a reason to make it early in August seems lame since most parents come from the days when we dealt with that and we made in life regardless of when a marking period was starting or ending... and yes many folks take their vacations in August not just current parents of students...

shiftless88

The public is all screaming "kids need to be in school" so when the FCPS says "okay" the parents scream "I didn't mean during my vacation!!". The public is a bunch of morons sometimes.

public-redux

I didn’t hear anyone screaming that the kids should be in school in early August. Did you?

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