State officials support starting school after Labor Day

Comptroller Peter Franchot, left, looks on during a news conference Thursday morning, Jan. 15, in Annapolis as Gov.-elect Larry Hogan adds his signature to a petition to start Maryland schools after Labor Day,. Standing at right is state Sen. Jim Mathias, D-38-Worcester.

ANNAPOLIS — State Comptroller Peter Franchot said in a news conference Thursday, Jan. 15, that more than 13,000 people from around the state signed a petition to start public schools after Labor Day.

The campaign began in August with the goal of collecting 10,000 signatures, according to a news release from Franchot’s office. The list of names was presented to the General Assembly Jan. 15.

“This is a grassroots, citizen-driven effort that has gathered tremendous support,” Franchot said in a statement. “13,244 Marylanders have sent a clear message that starting school after Labor Day will give families, students, teachers and small businesses the break they need — and deserve. It gives students time to learn life lessons beyond the classroom, teachers time to recharge their batteries and small businesses much needed help during tough economic times. I am confident we can make this meaningful adjustment and continue to end the school year in early to mid-June.”

The state does not currently regulate when schools should start, but lists which holidays must be taken off. Worcester County was the only district in the state to start the current school year after Labor Day.

At the news conference, state Sen. James Mathias, D-38-Worcester, outlined plans to sponsor legislation to start school after Labor Day, the Associated Press reported.

The campaign started after a governor’s task force recommended that the state’s public schools delay opening until after Labor Day. The task force met for nearly a year, and voted 11-4 to embrace a later start date and extended summer vacation statewide.

In August 2013, Franchot released an economic impact report on a post-Labor Day start for public schools. Completed by the Bureau of Revenue Estimates, the report found that a delayed school start in Maryland would result in an additional $74.3 million in direct economic activity, according to the comptroller’s office. The figure includes a projected $3.7 million in new wages and a separate $7.7 million in state and local revenue.

Governor-elect Larry Hogan added his signature to the petition during the Jan. 15 news conference. He recalled spending Labor Day weekend in Ocean City while growing up.

“This isn’t just a family issue, it’s an economic issue. It brings in a tremendous amount of economic activity, brings in tax revenue, and there’s no cost to the taxpayers,” Hogan said. “As a guy who spent a lot of summers with his family in Ocean City on Labor Day weekend, it makes a whole heck of a lot of sense to start school after Labor Day. There’s just no downside to this issue. There are an overwhelming number of people in this state who are in favor of starting school after Labor Day.”

As the fourth largest industry in the state, the tourism sector employs more than 340,000 Marylanders and plays a significant role in driving the state’s economy, the comptroller’s office said.

The study also found that 8.5 percent of families with school age children would take either a new day trip or a new overnight trip to one of Maryland’s three top destinations — Baltimore City, Deep Creek Lake or Ocean City, according to the comptroller’s office. Another 5.2 percent would take a new out-of-state day or overnight trip, and the remaining families would devote at least one more day to a family recreational activity close to home, the release states.

“Starting school after Labor Day is good for Ocean City and the entire state,” Ocean City Mayor Richard W. Meehan said. “It gives families more time to enjoy the last few weeks of summer and provides small businesses ... a tremendous economic boost when they need it most. It also creates jobs and generates revenue for our state’s struggling economy.”

Franchot said the state’s school systems could adjust their academic calendars without pushing back the end date or losing time for classroom instruction. The flexibility of adjusting winter and spring breaks or eliminating some of the school closure dates scattered throughout the school calendar would be left to each of Maryland’s 24 school systems.

“Teaching is a labor of love, but it’s a tough job,” Leslie Beveridge, a teacher at Easton Elementary said. “With some common-sense adjustments to the school calendar, we can give teachers the summer breaks we need to recharge our batteries and spend quality time with our own families, without impacting the end of the school year.”

Talbot County Public Schools Superintendent Kelly Griffith has previously stated that she does not think that school calendars should be a state issue.

“My personal opinion is that the calendar should be a local decision and not a political issue,” she said. “Everyone does things differently depending on where they are.”

Public schools on the Mid-Shore are planning schedules for next school year now. Kent County is the only county with a proposed calendar that has the school year starting after Labor Day. It is currently surveying parents and staff and giving three options with tentative start dates on Aug. 24, Aug. 31, and Sept 8.

Queen Anne’s County has a tentative start date for Aug. 31, Caroline has a tentative start date for Aug. 24 or 25, Talbot is considering Aug. 19 or 26 and Dorchester has a set date of Aug. 24.

 

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