By Jackson M., 6th Grade, Krieger Schechter Day School of Chizuk Amuno Congregation
In the summer of 2016, Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order mandating that beginning with the 2017-18 school year, public schools in Maryland would start after Labor Day and end by June 15. As a result, many public school systems changed their calendars to reach the required 180 days of school. This year, Maryland’s General Assembly passed legislation abolishing the governor’s executive order and granting control of academic calendars to the individual school systems.
As a result of these fluctuations and the mandatory 180 school days, some counties reclassified less-celebrated holidays and professional development days as academic ones, while other counties had to shorten or completely remove spring break because they had too many delays and closures for snow and ice. Many students, parents, and teachers at the public schools were disappointed and even angry to learn about these changes.
There are advantages and disadvantages to having a longer summer but no spring break. One benefit is that families have more vacation time during the hotter months. However, many traditions can be broken by not being able to be with family during the spring holidays, which often include Easter and Passover.
“Easter and Passover are not being celebrated as much because families are not able to be together around the holiday times,” said Andrew W., a sixth-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School and a former student of a Baltimore County elementary school. These family traditions are often severed without a spring break.
Kelly Platzke, a middle school English teacher at KSDS and a mother of three students in Baltimore County schools, acknowledged it makes more sense to have the students go to school prior to Labor Day. “Students who play fall sports have to go to school in the last week of August and even earlier to practice anyway,” she said. Opening school when athletes return would allow for a scheduled spring break.
There are many different ways that people spend their spring breaks. Many travel and some spend time with family, but overall, spring break is a time of leisure. For Platzke, it means having extra time to grade papers that she would otherwise not have time to grade. For Andrew, it means sleeping in, relaxing and spending time with family. “It is the only time of year where everybody [his whole family] is together at once,” he said. It is a time of reunion.
For the 2019-2020 school year, Maryland public officials have recommended the return of spring break, but noted other ways to add more time. In Baltimore County, the school day will be extended by 15 minutes, although only one snow day is built into the schedule. On the second snow day and every additional snow day, the next scheduled school holiday will be eliminated.
The calendar for public school systems in Maryland varies by school system. In Baltimore County, schools will open on Aug. 29, before Labor Day, and the calendar includes one week for spring break. Jewish holy days Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are now teacher development days, so only the students have a day off. Howard County is continuing to open after Labor Day and close schools for Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah and for a full spring break.
Next school year, even with a full spring break week back on the calendar, some people are opposed to the idea of having school on holidays and having a longer day.
Ben M., 10th-grader at Pikesville High School, believes it is unfair for the schools to remain open on less-popular holidays. According to Ben, it is unfair to minorities who celebrate these holidays and either have to miss school or miss the holiday celebration because schools are in session.
As summer is arriving and camps are starting, the Maryland public school systems will have to reach a final decision. It will impact not only the students, but also the spring holiday traditions of the Maryland public school families.