Laboring before Labor Day

March 07, 1993

Say "Labor Day," and one thinks of a mouth-waterin barbecue, a last dip in the pool, the final mass exodus from Ocean City . . . and homework?

Next fall, Baltimore City and most counties in Maryland will open, or are considering opening, schools the Monday before Labor Day, Sept. 6. Most school systems did so last fall as well, when Labor Day also fell relatively late (Sept. 7).

Call us traditionalists, but we still think that summer ends on Labor Day. Some administrators reason that classes get too hot in late June, so they'd rather end school early, but one would think that school buildings, baked throughout a Maryland summer, would be just as hot in late August and early September. As for the argument that students' concentration wanes at the end of June, how great will be the motivation of students and staff to get lessons rolling in a short week preceding a three-day weekend?

Among several school systems that have made the decision to open early, Harford County stood fast against criticism from youngsters and families who would have to make up school to participate in the agricultural exhibits at the State Fair in early September. (The county's Jewish community has already raised concern about the prospect of an early opening in 1994-95, which would conflict with the Jewish New Year.) Neighboring Baltimore County is reconsidering its 1993-94 calendar, in part to respond to rapid criticism for its proposed pre-Labor Day start.

Carroll County, on the other hand, reports that it opened before Labor Day several years ago, but doesn't plan to try that again: It got so much heat, especially from Maryland State Fair participants, it won't open school until Sept. 7.

School boards contend that the public supports the opening of school before Labor Day. We wonder. It seems just as likely that a.) families have their hands full with weightier concerns, and b.) the printed school calendar seems a fait accompli not worth fighting about.

Or could it be that people accustomed to the distortion of other holidays -- from Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays to Memorial Day -- simply sigh and surrender Labor Day, too?

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