Frederick County public schools could start before Labor Day next year, but a final decision is still months away.
With Labor Day falling late in 2020, school board members believe an earlier start might be necessary but for now are leaving that planning up to the school system’s Calendar Committee.
The committee’s recommendation is likely to come by December.
In 2016, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order that required all state public schools to begin their academic year after the “end of summer” holiday. In March, that order was overturned by the General Assembly.
Now, school districts can determine their own start date.
The Calendar Committee is made up of no more than 20 members all appointed by the school board. Members include parents, teachers, students and PTA council members.
The committee’s sole responsibility is to develop a calendar for the following school year with the goal of maximizing instructional time.
School board President Brad Young said at Wednesday’s work session that one of his main concerns for next year is that Labor Day doesn’t fall until Sept. 7, meaning students would get close to an extra week of summer vacation compared with this year.
“I wanted ... to have the board at least give a little bit of guidance on the new mandate that we do not need to start school by Labor Day,” Young said.
The school calendar start date has been a point of discussion among parents, FCPS staff, and representatives of the county since Hogan’s mandate was overturned.
At a joint meeting of the school board and County Council in June, Councilman Jerry Donald brought up the idea of having an earlier start date, arguing that this would give students more time to prepare for end-of-the-year testing, which would in turn help the school system make strides in closing the achievement gap.
Board member Liz Barrett brought up similar reasoning Wednesday, but said she wanted to see data before deciding.
“There’s a lot of conversation on the impact of AP testing with having a later calendar start. Are we seeing that impact?” Barrett said. “I know teachers feel crunched ... but are we seeing an impact on AP test scores or AP test participation that we can correlate back to the start?”
School Superintendent Terry Alban said the committee could work on collecting feedback from teachers and students on this point but wanted to know more specifically what type of calendar the board wants to see the committee develop — pre- or post-Labor Day.
“This is kind of the first time in the history of the Calendar Committee that they could go either way,” she said.
Board member Joy Schaefer said she feels Labor Day shouldn’t be a sticking point for the committee.
“[The committee] are certainly going to consider [Labor Day] as a holiday that exists,” Schaefer said. “But for us to create a parameter around something that has really nothing to do with providing quality education ... our intent should be what is the optimal instructional calendar period.”
Board member Karen Yoho agreed.
“If they can come up with a calendar that makes the most sense, that’s what I want to see,” Yoho said.
Barrett also asked if moving back the start date could allow a re-expansion of spring break, which is currently only three days compared with the traditional week offered by counties such as Montgomery and Howard.
All agreed that this is something that could be brought into the discussion.
The Calendar Committee will soon convene to develop options to present to the board for review. According to regulation, the committee is expected to provide a preliminary report to the board before their first board meeting in December and present final options for board approval by the first meeting in January.