Montgomery county school’s start date sparks debate

The feeling of leaving school before a day off is one of excitement and relief, and is not felt enough by the WCHS student body.

The feeling of leaving school before a day off is one of excitement and relief, and is not felt enough by the WCHS student body.

By Ohio Meshanko, Promotions manager

From Feb. 19 to April 16, MCPS will not have any days off from school. This is the longest period with no days off in the entire year, beating the strait from Sept. 20 to Nov. 6 by more than two weeks. The situation has been accepted as ‘how it works’ by most, but that needs to change as it deprives students of excitement and needed relaxation time.

The problem is not a lack of holidays worthy of a free day in this period; St. Patrick’s day falls on March 17 and is given off by many districts in the country. Ash Wednesday also falls on March 6. The reason for no break has do with state and county regulations.

A May 2016 executive order passed by Gov. Larry Hogan mandated that all Md. schools start after Labor Day, the first Monday in September, and end before June 15.

Hogan stated upon passing the law that it was intended to give Ocean City more time to collect revenue from families with children who aren’t yet in school while the weather is still nice, but it has the added effect of extending summer break for Md. students.

This is completely fine by itself, but the problem arises when combined with a Md. regulation that mandates that school years must have a minimum of 180 days.

The two laws combine into a perfect storm for a long school year with few breaks. Since the school year must start after Labor Day, yet still has to end in mid-June as usual, MCPS and other districts have been forced to minimize days that students get off. If MCPS allowed more free days, the school year would have to be extended further, causing many students and teachers to believe that the state law should be changed.

In an Observer poll of 50 WCHS students, 54 percent said that they would rather have school start earlier, with more days off built into the year.

Days off give students something to look forward to, and the excitement prevents students from falling into a slump and actually makes students more attentive. When the days start to blur by, it becomes difficult to concentrate. The extra time spent with family is also a plus.

According to an Oct. 2015 study by The Conversation, students who had a schedule with more days off, had math scores and overall academic achievement that increased by 7 percent. The students in the study cited feeling more refreshed upon returning to school to learn.

On the other hand, much of the WCHS administration believes that the changed schedule is actually a good thing. With many classes having AP exams in May, teachers believe that an uninterrupted schedule is beneficial to students’ knowledge. Some are tired of having to re-teach concepts because they were forgotten during a break from lessons.

That problem, however, is solely the students’ fault. If a day off from school is enough to make someone forget what they were taught prior, then that class may not be a good fit for them. AP teachers should ask students who need help to come in during lunch instead of backtracking a day to help some stragglers.

For those who agree that there needs to be an open dialogue about the school year, there are a few petitions active right now to change or rescind the order, and success has been apparent already.

The Maryland Senate voted Feb. 12 to let school boards decide whether or not to start school after labor day. While Gov. Hogan has expressed anger at this turn of events, stating on Twitter than it goes against what the majority of Md. voters want, no countermeasures have been taken.

The excitement and anticipation that comes with days off and the more focused class time that comes with the current schedule both have their advantages and disadvantages. While it is clear that the road to a balanced system is long, sudden change has a way of sneaking up when it is needed. Debates over this issue will surely continue to surface for the foreseeable future, but a more lax schedule may not be too far away.