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Using Snow Days Could Extend School Year

During the Anne Arundel County Board of Education meeting Wednesday, a board member's plan to give the body more control over makeup days was rejected by a tie vote.

A bad winter storm could mean a longer school year. The Anne Arundel County Board of Education approved school calendars two years in advance for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years on Wednesday. Within those calendars are dates for holidays, breaks and the policy for how to handle school closings due to extreme weather.

The next school year is comprised of 185 days. If any are missed, state law requires the days to be made up. Four days are built in to the end of the school year to compensate for emergency closings.

If additional school days must be missed, they’ll be added on top of those last days of school. If there are leftover days at the end of the year, school could conceivably end earlier in June.

Board member Kevin Jackson said he wanted to change the school closing policy to let the board decide how those additional days would be made up. Instead of piling on more days at the end of the year, or shortening spring break, Jackson sought other options. Though he brought no additional solutions to the table, Jackson argued for versatility.

“We need that flexibility,” Jackson said. “Some other option may need to be on the table so we don’t have to interfere with spring break or the end of the school year.”

Jackson’s motion would have extended the same policy the board used for the current school year. But the calendar presented to the board at Wednesday’s meeting came from the calendar committee, who decided to revert that policy back to how it had been.

Teresa Tudor, of the calendar committee, said many teachers, parents, students and administrators that comprise the committee wanted to have the days off defined well in advance, so they could plan for family events like traveling. However, she was unable to get a solid consensus among the calendar committee on that issue.

“They want it spelled out,” Tudor said. “If we’re going to put spring break in (the calendar), then they want it in, and not changed or moved around.” 

Anne Arundel County School Superintendent Kevin Maxwell said that any uncertainty in the schedule has been met with angst from parents, who are fearful of spring break dates becoming a moving target. Between that and a potentially longer school year, planning for families can become difficult.

“We would prefer to have them only concerned about one time of the year,” Maxwell said.

Board Member Deborah Ritchie said it didn’t look like there were any solutions other than shortening spring break or prolonging the school year. Tudor agreed, saying otherwise it would require drastic revision.

Ultimately Jackson’s motion failed by a rare tie vote of 3 to 3, with Solon Webb abstaining from the vote. Board members Eugene Peterson and Teresa Milio Birge were absent.

The school system can appeal any missed days due to weather with the state board of education. In the event of extreme weather statewide, certain emergency closing days can be waived.

Maxwell said the school system is already in talks with the state board over waivers due to in late August. But he said the state doesn’t usually grant these waivers until the end of winter.

The calendar for the 2012-2013 school year and the tentative calendar for 2013-2014 can be reviewed as PDFs along with the photos in this article. 

Alexa Faulkner November 03, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Why don't they extend the school day by 10 minutes, or whatever it takes to make up the time lost? It would be applied across the grade levels so buses would simply be pushed back a bit.
Michele Jenkins Nagorski November 03, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Extending the school day by 10 or 20 minutes would be the most efficient way on missed days. When I taught in Chesapeake,VA, and we were out for over a week due to the snow...extending the school day is a great way to maximize the educational moment.
John Frenaye November 03, 2011 at 03:44 PM
In Georgia, they build the days in and then actually schedule them. Say they need 180 days. They schedule 185 days and the actual days are put in during the year. THey tag onto a holiday to give a little longer break. A long weekend here and there, etc. When a day is used the LAST day scheduled on the calendar is deleted. When the second day is used the second to last day is deleted, etc. If there are no days, the kids get some long weekends, etc. But the end of school (and vacations) remain a constant.
D Ritchie November 03, 2011 at 04:47 PM
Just to clarify about the minutes. we did discuss this as well, however the state not only requires a certain number of hours they also require us to go a certain number of (180) days. We have scheduled 185 days and if we don't use the days then we deduct them from the end of the year.
Melissa C November 05, 2011 at 02:19 AM
Why do students need six days off for Spring Break? When did that start? I am a former AACPS student as well as a former AACPS teacher. I do not remember having that many days off for Spring break (we probably had a Fri. and Mon. off) and all of the other holidays/days off that are built in to the current calendar. I understand the Thanksgiving break and the Christmas break but six days off for Easter/Spring break is silly. What happened to three months off for the summer? As of now, there is barely a two month break before school starts again.
John November 05, 2011 at 03:15 PM
I actually don't understand the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. Our kids have so many breaks during the school year it's insane. I can see Christmas Eve and day off. I can see Thanksgiving day off. But each month is littered with days off here and there, half days and long breaks during holidays. The results is the kids don't get any "flow" and information has to be repeated when the kids get back to school. Our country is 34th in education for a reason.
Harry Balzonia November 05, 2011 at 05:42 PM
Uh, you do realize families do travel to spend these holidays with relatives who may live out of state? Our country is 34th in education because teachers have to spend their time preparing for standardized tests instead of teaching. I wouldn't blame the traditional holiday breaks, but agree there are too many scattered days off each month.
John November 05, 2011 at 09:32 PM
The Japanese school year is 243 days and they go until 5pm. I guess they think education is more important than vacations with relatives.
Jacob November 06, 2011 at 02:34 AM
During my snow day make-up experience I remember the snow days being built into the school year, as it appears already from the article. When we went over the amount of days built in, then I believe there was a set number of teacher work days that could be used as make-ups through out the rest of the year for some... and then for the really, really, bad snow seasons.. we had to add a few extra days on to the school year (this was a rarity). Perhaps the school board could consider adopting this idea.
Cecilia Pfau November 06, 2011 at 06:54 PM
I am a grandparent and I've watched how my grandkids have progressed in school. One is in the 6th grade and one is in the 8th grade. Some of the teachers they've had have been amazing in spite of the fact that they can't do their job as teachers to the fullest extent. They have to focus on everything else like taking tests. I'm sickened when I hear kids, some high schoolers, trying to read and they can't. What a shame! Teachers should be allowed to teach, and forget all of the other mumbo jumbo they get thrown at them by the Govt' (State and Federal). Geez, it isn't rocket science to go back to basics and prepare our kids for real life, not just taking tests. The kids these days need a break from all of the politicians and idiots who are messing up their lives. Just teach them now to survive in this world and be successful. A big thank you to all of the teachers that hang in there in spite of all the obstacles that have been put in your way to do your job. Hopefully some day this "teaching nightmare" will be over and teachers can get back to doing what they went to school for. P.S. The spring holiday is way too long.
Janine Horn November 06, 2011 at 10:53 PM
It is better to have several shorter breaks than a longer summer break. Students lose a lot over a long summer break.
Janine Horn November 06, 2011 at 10:54 PM
Japan also has a higher suicide rate.
John November 07, 2011 at 01:35 AM
The U.S. is one of the countries with the fewest school days...worldwide. South Africa has fewer with 174. From Germany to Australia, they have over 200 days. Our system is geared more for time off then actual education. It was "passable" back in the day...until standardized testing. That destroyed out entire system. As for the suicide rate comment about Japan, Finland has more school days then us and I think their suicide rate is just fine. Australia has 220 days. Their kids seem to be alive as well.
Sandy November 07, 2011 at 02:47 AM
I wouldn't oppose having our kids in school for longer. But then it would be up to us, as a society, to fund the additional teachers, classrooms and resources we'd need to make it work. As it stands now, we have too many people (including our County Executive ) who already believe we spend too much on public education. Oh, and John- Finland ranks #14 in number of suicides per 100,000 people. If you look at this list, there doesn't appear to be much of a correlation one way or another between number of school days and suicide rates. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate
Cecilia Pfau November 07, 2011 at 05:40 AM
It's truly amazing to know that there are people out there who say too much money is spent on public education. Where does one get to the point where you say educating our people isn't worth the price? If the money is spent correctly that wouldn't be the case and therein lies the problem. Too much money is spent on the wrong things and the decisions are made by a few people instead of asking the "worker bees" like the teachers where the money is needed.
John November 07, 2011 at 12:52 PM
This isn't a money issue. Contrary to popular belief, spending per student has increased dramatically throughout the years. Two points: 1) We are competing on a global scale but act like it's still 1950. We are indeed one of the countries with the fewest number of school days. That says a lot. 2) Teachers are under far too much pressure to produce good grades. If they don't, they're labeled "bad." One of my best high school teachers was very tough. A's were extremely difficult. I learned more from him than any other teacher - and he was free to teach that way. Today, his class average would be a low C and he'd be chewed out and threatened with his job; "You'd better get that class average up. You're making our school look bad." Finally, you have to dumb everything down. What my 4th grader is learning is an embarrassment. Of course, everyone passes. His homework is a complete joke. Some days it's a single sheet of paper that he completes in minutes.
Lisa A November 08, 2011 at 07:20 PM
Considering the kids go back to school in mid-August and not get out until mid-June and barely get a 2 month summer vacation, why not scale back with some of the 2 hour early dismissals and the long breaks around the holidays, so the schools can get out the last week of May/first week of June?
John November 08, 2011 at 08:31 PM
The math is easy - kids go to school around 180 days out of 365. Other counties...as in like EVERY other country in the world doesn't seem to think their kids need that much of a break.
Harry Balzonia November 08, 2011 at 11:09 PM
I doubt you complained about having summer breaks when you were a kid. Why are people so quick to cheat our kids out of a childhood filled with summertime memories like WE ALL have. And why do we really care what other country in the world thinks?
Bob Tonucci November 09, 2011 at 01:44 PM
If the kids attend more days, the teachers will want more money. AACo already spends over 50% of the budget on the public schools, and the school board still says it isn't enough. Per pupil spending each year is about $13K a year, that would pay for a nice private school education.
John November 09, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Really, it's a matter of what they're learning over the number of days. I know my son - 4th grader for 4 Seasons, has ONE homework assignment for the entire week. Enough said. And of course, today's a half day. Because...umm, I guess because.

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