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The Montgomery County Board of Education adopted an updated calendar for the 2017- 2018 school year at its February 27, 2017 business meeting.See
the calendar here.
MCPS has received many inquiries from the community about how decisions on the calendar are made and the potential impact it may have. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the calendar process.
In accordance with Policy IDA,
staff in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer used a collaborative process to solicit input on drafting the proposed school calendar. This strategic planning process is spearheaded by the Calendar Committee, which includes teachers, principals and other staff, as well as parents and a representative from the Montgomery County Faith Community Working Group.
The development of the 2017-2018 calendar began in February 2016, but was altered by an executive order issued by Governor Larry Hogan on August 31, 2016, that mandated new restrictions on when school may start and when it must end—after Labor Day and before June 15. The Board adopted a calendar on December 13, 2016 based on these parameters, but additional guidelines from the Maryland State Department of Education were provided afterwards that again altered the development of the 2017-2018 calendar. The Calendar Committee and other stakeholders have been consulted throughout the process, culminating in the adoption of the 2017-2018 school calendar on February 27, 2018.
Governor Hogan’s Executive Order on August 31, 2016, requiring public schools in Maryland to start the school year after Labor Day and end by June 15, significantly delayed the calendar development process by supplanting the authority of locally elected school boards across the state. The delay was compounded due to a lack of clarity in how the executive order intersects with the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) for school calendars, requiring additional guidance from the Maryland State Department of Education. This lack of clarity and additional guidance required MCPS to revise the calendar multiple times before adopting the final calendar on February 27, 2017.
MCPS was in constant dialogue with key stakeholders, including leaders of the Montgomery County Education Association, Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals, and Service Employees International Union Local 500, as we worked to develop a calendar compliant with the executive order and COMAR. Immediately after receiving new guidelines from the Maryland State Department of Education after the Board adopted the calendar on December 13, 2016, MCPS staff met with the leadership of all three unions to discuss the possibility of needing to make modifications to the calendar pending additional clarification and guidance from the State. These discussions continued throughout January and February as districts around the state grappled with the constraints of the executive order.
The Calendar Committee started developing the 2017-2018 calendar in February 2016.
The calendar is based on 182 instructional days, which is two more than the minimum required by the State but two fewer than in previous years. This is due to the governor’s requirement that public schools in Maryland begin no earlier than the Tuesday after Labor Day and end no later than June 15, including make-up days for emergency school closings as stipulated in COMAR.
In accordance with COMAR, the Board adopted a calendar contingency plan that identifies dates that could be used as instructional days if necessary to make up school due to emergency and weather-related closings. Two of these days are the first two days of the scheduled spring break, March 26 and 27, 2018. One day, January 26, 2018, would replace a professional day if needed to be used as a make-up day. Additional contingency dates would extend the school year until June 15, 2018.
While the calendar was reduced to 182 student instructional days, the total number of teacher work days remains the same. The calendar contains 192 scheduled work days and 24 hours of unscheduled work time. This is a change from the current work year, which contains 193 scheduled work days and 16 hours of unscheduled work time. Both calendars contain 195 work days, but the 2017-2018 calendar compresses the number of scheduled work days and increases unscheduled work time as a result of the executive order.
Under the current 2016-2017 school calendar, teachers are scheduled for three (3) full days and two (2) half-days of fully compensated work time that is available during the student instructional year for grading, planning, working collaboratively with colleagues, and/or activities related to professional learning. In addition, during the current 2016-2017 school year teachers have available sixteen (16) hours of unscheduled fully compensated work time to focus on instruction and to improve student achievement.
Under the recently adopted calendar for 2017-2018, teachers are scheduled for one (1) full day and five (5) half-days, as well as one (1) unscheduled full day of fully compensated work time that is available during the student instructional year for grading, planning, working collaboratively with colleagues, and/or activities related to professional learning. Teachers also retain the sixteen (16) hours of unscheduled fully compensated work time during the 2017-2018 school year to focus on instruction and to improve student achievement.
The summary above makes it clear that fully compensated work time available to teachers for grading, planning, etc., during the student instructional calendar actually increases by one (1) half day in the 2017-2018 school year. The only other difference between the two school years is that, due to the constraints placed on school districts by the Governor's Executive Order, there were not enough acceptable days available during the compressed student instructional year imposed by that Order to schedule eight (8) of those hours on a regular work day; so it was decided simply to leave that time as unscheduled to provide the greatest possible flexibility for our teachers to accomplish their vital work. But the fact remains that total fully compensated work time available to teachers for the purpose of grading and planning still increases under the new calendar.
Three additional early release days are scheduled within the calendar compared to the current 2016-2017 calendar. This increase is due to the restrictions of Governor Hogan’s Executive Order that compete with longstanding practices in Montgomery County Public Schools for professional days. There are not enough days between September 5, 2017 and June 15, 2018 to provide the same number of full professional days and meet the requirements in the gubernatorial executive order and COMAR without taking away days from spring break. Therefore, additional early release days have been added to the calendar.
MCPS staff considered recommending to the Board of Education an even greater number of early release days during the 2017-2018 school calendar in an effort to schedule more of the compensated time for grading, planning, etc. within the regular work day, but ultimately decided not to do so this year in an effort to strike the right balance between full days and half days of instruction. The adopted calendar contains 9 early release days in grades K-8, there are 7 in high schools; however, not all of these early release days relate to teacher grading and planning time. In future years, given the constraints of the executive order, MCPS recognizes that a new approach may be necessary to early release days so that more of them can be utilized for critical planning time.
Due to the reduction in the number of student instructional days, and in order to adhere to the contractually agreed upon 195 day teacher work year, there is an increase in the number of teacher professional days. Unfortunately, restrictions on the student instructional calendar imposed by the governor’s executive order forced MCPS to reschedule many of these increased professional days outside of the student instructional calendar. The options were to schedule these additional professional days at the end of the school year, over the summer, over spring break, or before the start of school, since there were no other scheduled days available between September 5, 2017 and June 15, 2018. Operationally, placing these additional non-student professional days before pre-service week was the most implementable and viable option.
The calendar committee will be starting immediately to develop a draft calendar for the 2018-2019 school year. However, there are several considerations in future years that will further complicate the calendar structure within the timeframe of the executive order. For example, the 2017‒2018 school year is not affected by the state law requirement that school must be closed for election days, but this will be a factor in the 2018-2019 school year, thereby restricting options even further for programming student instructional time and critical staff professional time. With greater clarity from the State now about the school calendar, MCPS will be able to return to the normal process of early development and adoption for the 2018-2019 calendar and looks forward to working with all stakeholders in this process.