BY HELEN LYONS — After Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order on Aug. 31 requiring all Maryland public schools to begin after Labor Day and end by June 15, Prince George’s County is working to develop a new school calendar to fit within the mandated timeframe while still maintaining the 180 school days required under state law.
“There are things in the calendar that we’re going to have to cut to fit that timeframe,” said Lynn McCawley, a senior public information specialist who has chaired the calendar committee since 2005.
Initially, schools were told they’d have the option to obtain a waiver, but McCawley said, “Once they tightened up the process and the circumstances required in order to obtain a waiver, we decided to go ahead and move forward and try to make this work.”
The county has created two draft calendars for the next school year and is looking to its constituents for feedback with the creation of the 2017-18 Draft School Calendar Survey.
“One calendar shows what we would have done prior to this,” explained McCawley, “and the other shows after — what we would have to do to fit within that parameter. We are changing some longstanding things and we want all stakeholders to have a chance to share what’s important to them and what they wouldn’t mind cutting.”
The survey is offered in Spanish and English, and is open to parents and guardians of PGCPS students, the students themselves, employees and community members. There is also a box to check for “other,” under the first question which asks survey-takers to check the box that best represents them.
Questions gauge the clarity of the schedule (“Does the calendar clearly show when the students are in school?”) and ask for a starting preference of before or after Labor Day.
Respondents are also given the opportunity to check boxes on a list of proposed changes to the calendar that they feel work for them, focusing around holidays and breaks. They can also check off preferences such as “shorten spring break,” change Good Friday holiday to an early dismissal day, and make a full day professional development day an optional weather makeup day.
Lastly, survey respondents have the chance to write in their own suggestions for changes to the 2017-2018 calendar.
The survey closes today, Dec. 2. Officials will use the survey information when finalizing the calendar.
“We serve the needs of our students, and that’s the most important thing,” said Thornton Boone, the principal of Hyattsville Middle School. “The survey will give us good feedback on how to make the school more community-friendly, and increase parent involvement.”