MCPS makes drastic changes to 2021-2022 school calendar

A screenshot of the MCPS proposed calendar for 2021-22. The calendar begins and ends very late, changing the summer plans of many students

Photo by Jasper Bernstein

A screenshot of the MCPS proposed calendar for 2021-22. The calendar begins and ends very late, changing the summer plans of many students

By Jasper Bernstein, Observations Editor

Last year, The Observer wrote an article on the number of days of school for the upcoming year. In that article, it was noted that MCPS had significantly reduced the number of days off school, while keeping start and end dates around the same. This year, MCPS went in a different direction: starting and ending school very early.

To effectively compare schedules across different years, The Observer has added up the number of days off for each MCPS school year since 2013. Each day off counts as one point, and each half-day counts as a half-point. 

From the 2013-14 school year to the 2016-17 school year, MCPS kept their calendar mostly the same. Each of the four years in that span had around 27 days off during the school year. School also started before Labor Day, giving MCPS more time during the school year to accommodate for the large amount of time off of school.

In 2016, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order that forced schools to start after Labor Day, giving students an extended summer break. Although this allowed longer family vacations (which was the purpose of the law, to make more money on the beaches), this shortened the school year, lowering the amount of time off during the school year. 

“I’m not sure how I felt about [the executive order]. It did give me more summer, but it made school end very late,” said WCHS junior Mason Goldstein.

After signing the executive order, MCPS’ schedule score plummeted. The number of days off went from around 27 to 22 days during the 2017-2018 school year. 

However, MCPS listened to public opinion and increased the number of days off school to 30 days in the 2020-21 school year, a mark higher than the previously established 27 days in 2019-20.

This year, MCPS took the whole calendar in a different direction. With the Labor Day order being rolled back, MCPS was free to start school whenever it wanted. The proposed 2021-22 calendar includes only 22.5 days off of school, a drastic decrease, bringing it to 2017-18 levels. 

The biggest change in this calendar, aside from the number of days off, is the timeline for the year. Under this proposed calendar, MCPS would begin the school year on August 12. In 2020-21, the school year started on August 31. 

With school starting a few weeks earlier than previous years, students and parents will have to double-check their normal summer schedule, to make sure it doesn’t overlap with the new calendar. 

“Coming back mid-August, while summer activities are very much in full-swing, cuts weeks off traditional summer, when many families have plans, and many businesses are counting on their vacation dollars,” said WCHS parent Haylie Iseman.

Because the year starts so early, the school year also ends much earlier than other years. In 2020-21, the school year ends on June 16. In 2021-22, the year will end on May 20. The year-end will occur much earlier than previous years, raising concerns about summer plans. 

“Students and their families will observe Memorial Day weekend regardless, but then few summer activities truly begin in earnest until mid-June,” said Iseman.

The final major change in the schedule is the addition of unassigned workdays. Unassigned workdays are strategically placed throughout breaks, such as the four on Dec. 22, 28, 29 and 30. Although there is little to no information about these days, MCPS clearly is developing a plan to incorporate these new additions into the calendar year. 

It’s important to remember that this is only a calendar proposal. From the election of the student member of the board to attendance at virtual board meetings, MCPS students have ample opportunity to make their voices heard about important decisions, such as calendar changes.

“I think that voting for SMOB is the best way for me to help change the schedule for next year, so I’m excited to vote,” said Goldstein.