Frederick County Public Schools will open after Labor Day next school year, complying with a controversial gubernatorial executive order.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, signed an executive order on Aug. 31, requiring all of Maryland’s public schools to start after Labor Day and end by June 15.
Hogan earned the ire of educational leaders and Democratic lawmakers, who accused him of overstepping his legal bounds and disregarding the purview of the local school districts.
The Frederick County Board of Education voted Wednesday to approve the 2017-18 calendar. The first day of school will be Tuesday, Sept. 5, the day after Labor Day.
Of the seven-member board, only April Miller voted against the calendar. She said she disagreed with not offering a longer spring break for students outside of Good Friday and the Monday after Easter. The district must close on both of these days, per state law.
She said in a later interview that many people gave feedback about wanting a longer spring break, and that many high school juniors and seniors use that time for college visits.
This school year, spring break runs from April 14 through 21.
Only four snow days have been designated in the calendar, fewer than what the district has used in recent years. Last school year, the system closed six days for weather, and a dozen times two years before that.
Hogan allows the Maryland State Board of Education to grant exemptions from his order, but only for specific reasons, none of which the Frederick County school district meets.
Breaking from tradition, next school year, the school district has scheduled the day that students typically attend The Great Frederick Fair on a Thursday instead of Friday, on the same day as the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana.
The district closes schools for Jewish holidays, not because they’re religious days, but because attendance is traditionally low on those days, officials have said. The school system faced some criticism years ago for scheduling “Fair Day” on Yom Kippur.
Jacqui Kreh, a member of The Great Frederick Fair’s board of directors, urged the school board before its vote to keep Fair Day on Friday. Kreh was a member of the committee that drafts the academic calendar before it is presented to the school board for approval. She had advocated keeping Fair Day separate.
As board members noted in the meeting, the 2018-19 calendar will likely be more challenging to build. Schools must close for election days twice that school year, and where Christmas falls that year makes it more difficult to schedule winter break.
New board member Ken Kerr, a Frederick Community College professor, brought up the fact that the FCC calendar and the school district calendars no longer align. This presents some challenges for high school students who take FCC classes, he said.