Ocean City in the summer is a tradition to Marylanders. But the tradition may change considerably for many if a state proposal to lengthen the school year becomes reality.
Businesses that rely on the traditional summer trade are natural opponents of the proposal by the state Board of Education to lengthen the school year by 20 days in the hope of better educating students.
"It would be devastating here, absolutely devastating," said Anne FauntLeRoy, executive director for the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce. "This would affect our hotels, motels, restaurants, everything.
"We depend on high school students, especially seniors to work here. It would have a definite impact on us -- all of it negative," she added.
Fred Wise, director of marketing for the Carousel Hotel, said families would have the biggest adjustment to make if the proposal were to become reality -- something most business representatives interviewed didn't feel will occur. So far, no one has organized any formal opposition to the idea.
"Hiring summer labor is difficult at best," Wise said. "But the biggest effect would be family vacations."
Wise said his hotel is geared more toward families who take their young children with them to the beach. If a family has to postpone its vacation until July or August, the more expensive time of the year to visit Ocean City, Wise said, innkeepers may lose families who can't afford to visit during peak times.
Hotels could gear themselves toward booking conventions. But, Wise said, this would bring in less revenues because conventions usually are discounted package deals.
Wise said the move to lengthen the school year also would have an adverse effect on real estate in the area.
"There are many people who rent out their places during the summer," Wise said. "They could lose a month's worth of rental.
"It could also hurt seniors coming down trying to earn money for college tuition," he added.
In fact, Ocean City has been working hard to get people to come down even earlier in the year, Wise said. A Springfest, which could bring tourists in during May, is in the planning stages.
Summer camps are another business that could be hurt by an extended school year.
"It could have a very adverse effect on businesses of this type," said Milton Klein, the director of Camps for Kids in Columbia. "A longer school year does not necessarily make for a better quality of education."
Klein, who was a teacher in Montgomery County for 26 years, said people like their traditional vacation times. And many people prefer to travel during nice weather.
"And, if I know parents, they're still going to take vacations during the summer, even if it means pulling their kids out of school," Klein said.
"I still question the value of extending the year," Klein said. "How is this going to affect youngsters who work during the summer? I don't think it's been well thought out."
Ed Cohen, also a former teacher, and now the executive director of Camps Airy and Louise in Baltimore, said he would much rather see an extended school day than an extended school year.
"I am of the belief that more is not always better," Cohen said. "I know what happens when you hit June, whether you have air conditioning or not. Their [students'] eyes start to glaze over."
Steve Eller, a Baltimore teacher and director of public relations for the Beth Tfiloh Camps, said an extended year would have a "major impact on the camping industry."
But Eller said he is more concerned about the proposal from an educator's point of view.
"When the temperature gets over 85, learning absolutely flat bottom stops," Eller said. "The last weeks of school, the first week of school, nothing happens.
"I think we can add more days without extending the calendar. We can add more hours in a day," he added.