Solving the School Year Puzzle

December 14, 1993

The Carroll County Board of Education may have to open school before Labor Day next summer. Even though the action may not be universally popular, an early start to the school year will ensure that it ends in early June.

No one wants a repeat of the last year when school didn't end until June 24. For parents who had made vacation plans or paid for summer camp and recreation programs that started before then, the late school close was more than an inconvenience.

Putting together a school calendar is similar to working with an algebraic equation with constants and a number of different variables.

The most important constant is the length of the school year. By state law, schools must have at least 180 instructional days. The other constant is the number of in-service training days for teachers and staff. Because 1994 is an election year, an additional two days will be lost when schools become polling places for the primary and general elections.

The variables are the start of the school year and the number of days lost to snow and icy weather. Because no one can predict precisely the number of days lost to bad weather, the best approach would be to build in more teaching days in the middle of the year. By holding teacher training days on the two election days, for example, the schools could gain two days of instructional time. Teachers may not like working on Election Day, but, with few exceptions, the rest of the working world does.

For the many students who are 4-H members, a pre-Labor Day start would also conflict with the Maryland State Fair. The 4-H could make it easier for the students by scheduling judging events and other contests in the late afternoon. The school system should also allow the 4-H'ers to leave a little early so they could arrive at the fairgrounds in Timonium in time for their events.

Opening school immediately after Labor Day next year is also a problem that has confronted several school systems because it is the start of the Jewish New Year, and many Jewish children would be forced to miss the opening of school. With all those variables to consider, beginning school two days before Labor Day weekend next year may dilute the traditional end of summer, but the gains in this instance probably outweigh the losses.

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