Summer's Premature Passing

August 21, 1993

Here comes Labor Day, the traditional end of summer. Or so it once was, recall old-timers who can remember that far back.

Increasingly, Labor Day as a coda, a finish line, a grand finale, a splashdown for summer, doesn't mean what it used to, at least not in Maryland. Last year, 19 of the state's 24 school systems opened on the Monday prior to Labor Day. This year, 20 school systems will do so. Whatever psychological walls used to exist to mark Labor Day as the end of summer and the beginning of a fresh school year are crumbling like a sand castle in the evening tide.

Maintaining the traditional summer recess has been a big issue in other states, some of which have passed legislation forbidding the opening of public school prior to Labor Day.

Virginia did so six years ago, despite protests from individual school boards that considered the school-opening date a local issue. Some of the Old Dominion's major tourism attractions, such as Colonial Williamsburg and King's Dominion amusement park, were concerned that condensing summer by a week would rob them of both employees and clientele. Even though schools close earlier in June when they open before Labor Day, families don't seem geared up to travel that early in the summer.

But while the issue stirred passions elsewhere, Marylanders haven't gotten excited about the apparent end of the traditional close of summer. There was some gnashing of teeth over the matter in Baltimore County, one of the few jurisdictions to retain a post-Labor Day opening for its public schools, but most systems have crushed the custom with nary a whimper.

Ocean City merchants, coming off a great season of beach weather, are probably tired and ready to pack it in anyway. The managers and lifeguards of all the community pools around here get an easy last week with most of the kids in school. Many working parents prefer the school calendar to the improvisations they must orchestrate to get their kids through summer. And teachers and other 10-month school employees apparently like ending the year earlier instead of starting it later.

So somebody punched summer's timecard a week early. Marylanders don't seem to care. But call them Rhinos or sell them crab cakes from India, and then you've got a fight on your hands.

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