Starting in the academic year of 2017-2018, students will be given an extension on their summer vacation following Governor Larry Hogan’s (R) executive order mandating that all Maryland public schools must start after Labor Day.
“This Executive Order puts the best interests of Marylanders first, especially the well-being of our students.” Gov. Hogan stated on August 31st at a press conference with Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) and other fellow backers.
This change comes as a result of longtime advocacy started by former governor Martin O’Malley (D) for a more family-friendly school calendar and fiscally efficient agenda.
According to a 2013 study, a post-Labor Day start could potentially result in an extra $74.3 million in economic activity through Maryland’s booming summer tourism industry– money that Comptroller Franchot claims will ultimately cycle back to certain Maryland counties on the East Coast.
Besides allowing businesses to expand their profits and giving students more time off, Gov. Hogan hopes that a later start time will lower HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) costs, and reduce the amount of hot summer days spent by students in buildings without air conditioning, such as many in Baltimore County.
While the executive order has received widespread bipartisan support, the opposition has come primarily from the left, as many Democratic representatives have heavily criticized Gov. Hogan for prioritizing tourism over student and teacher needs.
The dissidents argue that the Republican governor has created even more economic difficulties for families who must now pay for extra child care, and whose kids rely on subsidized meals provided in schools.
Yet despite the strong backlash, Gov. Hogan has remained firm in his stance, continuing to defend the order at many of his public appearances.
The only hint of leniency can be found in the waiver made available by the Maryland State Board of Education, which allows school systems to apply for permission to start earlier. However, the waiver has narrow terms limited by Gov. Hogan to either “charter schools or low-performing/at-risk schools with innovative schedules, or districts with high emergency-related closings.”
As of now, the Montgomery County Board of Education has yet to comply with the executive order and revise their 2017-2018 schedule with a start day of August 28th, 2017, meaning that the county will have to prove there is “compelling justification” for a waiver.
“I think the idea is great,” former SMOB candidate and Richard Montgomery junior Alex Abrosimov said. “Of course there are some catches, and we have to make sure that everyone gets all the instruction time they need. But we can’t forget that many people, outside of purely enjoying the summer, also have jobs during that time- and those extra few weeks can really help out those who need the extra money.”
However, with over a week of instruction lost, Montgomery County teachers will face even harsher deadlines, as Advanced Placement exams will not shift from their set dates.
“This means less time to teach the same things, which results in teachers cramming everything and students being more stressed since everything is going at a faster pace,” Wootton junior Cynthia Sheng lamented.
Although the announcement was made just over two months ago, the mandate has already generated substantial debate, making this Gov. Hogan’s first truly controversial policy and leaving the politician with just over half a term to deal with the fallout of his press conference. It remains to be seen if Montgomery County’s Board will receive the evasive waiver or if Gov. Hogan, one of the nation’s most popular governors, will prevail over his dissenters.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Vlady Guttenberg of Richard Montgomery High School