We hope all students and their families enjoy their long Labor Day weekend. On Tuesday, it’s back to school.
And there’s probably a more than good chance this could be the last post-Labor Day start of school for Frederick County students.
So we hope you enjoyed those Labor Day vacations while they lasted.
The Maryland State Legislature this session passed a bill that gives school scheduling power back to exactly where it should be: the local jurisdictions.
This means the Frederick County Board of Education will get to build out their school schedule going forward, eschewing a Gov. Larry Hogan executive order that mandated counties start school after Labor Day and end by June 15.
Because the state requires students attend school for 180 days a year, the scheduling mandate required the local board of education to consider tough decisions like having students attend school on Fair Day or religious holidays like Rosh Hashanah.
“I’d rather the state either [mandate] the whole schedule or stay out of it,” Board of Education President Brad Young said in 2017 of the scheduling frustration. “We’re told we can’t give students [days] off for religious holidays, but then state law says we have to give them [Good Friday and Easter Monday] and Dec. 24 to Jan. 2.”
We agree. The state legislature should stay out of it. But we would caution the county against permanently moving the school start before Labor Day.
Data shows Marylanders overwhelmingly support starting school after Labor Day, and the economic benefit is hard to ignore. According to a report from Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office, the state would generate $74.3 million in economic activity with a post-Labor Day start.
Most advocates of a pre-Labor Day start argue that it gives students more time to learn and therefore boosts achievement. But, a study by Virginia Commonwealth University found no correlation between a school district’s start date and student achievement.
However, we’re aware of the scheduling challenges that befall the Board of Education on certain years depending on the day on which Labor Day falls. Take next year, for instance. Starting school after Labor Day would mean a Sept. 8 start date. With a June 15 end date, t’s unlikely the district could fit the required amount of school days in the calendar under that restriction. A pre-Labor Day start may be needed.
Perhaps the school could explore a post-June 15 end date to give students and families the post-Labor Day start, but even that might be tough to fit in and still give students a summer vacation that starts in June.
Issues with the dreaded state mandated testing might also pose a problem. But, pushing the school calendar to end later in June each year, could give families some more consistency in planning their vacations each year.
Like with most complex issues, however, it will likely take some compromise. Some years, maybe students do need to start school before Labor Day. Perhaps the school board could explore eliminating teacher professional development days one year and Fair Day on another year to make the calendar work.
The correct agency now has the power to make the decisions based on building the school calendar. But they’d be wise to heed to popular public opinion when wielding that power.