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.