DENTON — The Caroline County Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 8, amended the upcoming 2019-20 school calendar, in response to the state legislature relaxing the June 15 deadline to end the school year, while tightening requirements to get a waiver for missed days due to inclement weather.
Students’ first day will still be Tuesday, Sept. 3, but their last day was moved from Monday, June 15, to Wednesday, June 17.
The calendar was originally approved in February 2018, along with the current school year’s calendar; it was the first time the Board of Education approved the next two years’ calendars at the same time, to give staff and parents a longer-term view.
The current school year’s calendar was adjusted in June to increase the number of built-in inclement weather days from three to five, to reflect the average number used in Caroline County over the previous several years.
A failure to schedule enough built-in inclement weather days was one of the reasons given by the Maryland State Board of Education for why it denied several jurisdictions’ waiver requests at the end of the 2017-18 school year, including Caroline County’s.
Dr. Derek Simmons, director of student services, said the amended 2019-20 calendar presented to the Board of Education, which is otherwise the same as the one approved a year ago, was preferred by school staff.
Simmons said the day before Thanksgiving could have been made an instructional day, but that proved an unpopular decision in the current school year’s calendar — only 80 percent of students attended, the lowest rate of the year so far.
The winter break could not be adjusted either, Simmons said; with Christmas falling on a Wednesday, it did not make sense to schedule students to come to school for a half-day Monday, Dec. 23.
“It’s not a fun task,” Simmons said of setting the school calendar, “especially when you’re so boxed in with what your options are.”
In 2016, Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order stipulating the school year must begin for students after Labor Day and end by June 15, getting in at least 180 instructional days, while observing all required days off for designated holidays.
At the end of the 2017-18 school year, the first the executive order was in effect, emergency legislation was passed relaxing the June 15 deadline, after many jurisdictions experienced an excessive number of inclement weather days.
Since then, changes to the Code of Maryland Regulations made by the state legislature say school systems must add at least three student days to the school year’s original calendar before they can apply for a waiver.
The post-Labor Day start date remains in effect.