Frederick County Public Schools already had the earliest start date of any school system in the state, opening on Aug. 18. Now the system is considering moving the first day of school even earlier.
Parents were already complaining about start date this year. Moving it earlier is going to strike many parents as ridiculous.
The Frederick County Board of Education has to set a school calendar far in advance, so it is currently looking at proposals for the 2023-24 school year.
The school system website said that, under the draft 2023-2024 calendar presented to the board last week, school would begin for students on Wednesday, Aug. 9, and end Tuesday, May 21, 2024. If all five snow days are needed, the last day of school for students would be Wednesday, May 29, 2024, the system said.
Kevin Cuppett, FCPS director of curriculum, instruction and innovation, presented the draft calendar to board members. We are in favor of innovation in education, but this is a bridge too far for us.
Cuppett acknowledged to the board that the early start date was likely to upset some community members. According to the article by News-Post reporter Jillian Atelsek, board member Sue Johnson blurted out, with a laugh, “It doesn’t feel good!”
Indeed, it does not look good or feel good.
Cuppett said the idea of the change would be to move the school system 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.
That is not a terrible idea, but it could easily be argued that students can return from winter break refreshed and ready for first semester finals, and then the start of a new semester. Both are legitimate proposals.
Cuppett said starting that early would allow students to finish earlier. True enough, but work schedules at many firms encourage employees to take their vacations in August, and this calendar would play havoc with them.
Many other aspects of life — children’s sports and camps, family reunions, summer jobs, beach vacations — are structured around a late August start to the school year.
The start date has slowly crept up over the years from the traditional beginning after Labor Day. Families have adjusted, with more or less grumbling. But pushing the start of school to the beginning of August seems excessive.
Cuppett said he hoped families might appreciate beginning summer break on June 1, but we doubt it. Most people just don’t like change, and this is a big one.
The proposed calendar year would include 27 weeks of five-day instruction, a longer-than-typical spring break and days off for Yom Kippur and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It also has five built-in snow days. The possibility of switching to virtual instruction during inclement weather is also being explored.
The board did not make a final decision on the calendar. It has posted instructions on its website, fcps.org, for parents and community members to make comments about the proposal, and it will be accepting comments until Dec. 3.
“We [should] really wait to hear from the public on this one,” board vice president Karen Yoho said.
The board is likely to get an earful.