The following is a series of questions and answers about concerns and issues related to the opening of school on Monday, April 21. The Q&A was developed by the Office of the Chief Operating Officer in consultation with other staff and employee organizations. Additional information will be provided as other questions arise.
Q. 1: Why are schools open on April 21?
A: Schools are open on April 21 as one of the make-up days for the 10 school closures that occurred this year because of weather emergencies.
Q. 2: Why was April 21 selected?
A: Monday, April 21, is the least disruptive option for a make-up day since it is at the end of the scheduled spring break and the beginning of the academic week.
Q. 3: But what happened to the contingency calendar and the other make-up days?
A: When the original contingency plan was developed, April 21 (Easter Monday) was designated as a state holiday. That changed in February when the Maryland State Board of Education made it available as a potential school day. Consequently, the contingency calendar could be changed to use that day instead of the first Monday of the spring break (April 14), which would have been more disruptive.
Q. 4: Couldn't this have been avoided?
A: Yes. In fact, the Montgomery County Board of Education requested a waiver from the Maryland State Board of Education in order to avoid another make-up day. That request was denied by the state board.
Q. 5: So, who made the decision to open schools on April 21?
A: The Montgomery County Board of Education selected April 21 as a make-up day just in case the state board denied the waiver request. This was done as a back-up measure so that students and employees could receive early notification of the possibility that schools and offices would be open that day. Once the state board denied the waiver, April 21 automatically became a regular school and workday.
Q. 6: Do students have to come to school and employees to work?
A: Yes. It is a regular school day and workday. Students who are unable to be in school need to have a signed written permission request by a parent for an excused absence in advance of the spring break. Employees who are unable to be at work need to have appropriate authorization in advance (see Questions 9 and 10).
Q. 7: Isn't April 21 a negotiated and guaranteed holiday in the union contracts?
A: No. All of the contracts, in the Holiday Leave section, refer simply to “official holidays, which shall be designated each year in the school calendar.” Since April 21 is no longer an official Board of Education holiday, this language does not apply. Official holidays are designated by the Board of Education. This means April 21 does not qualify for overtime or holiday pay.
Q. 8: Isn't opening schools and offices on April 21 a burden on employees and students?
A: Everyone recognizes that there are serious implications when a holiday is canceled, especially for individual students and staff who may be unavailable that day because of previously planned vacations and travel. The first priority of the school system, though, is to make April 21 as successful and productive a school day as possible, while recognizing that this calendar change could create conflicts.
Q. 9: May employees take personal or annual leave on April 21?
A: Managers and principals will consider leave requests from employees who have documented travel plans indicating their inability to return to work on April 21. Such leave requests must be submitted immediately. If leave is not approved and the employee does not report to work, the employee will not be paid.
Q. 10: What about sick leave?
A: Sick leave is reserved for legitimate illnesses. However, individuals without available personal or annual leave may request to convert one day of available sick leave to personal leave if they have documented travel plans (for example, airline tickets, hotel reservations, etc.) indicating their inability to return to work on April 21 without incurring a financial hardship. Such leave requests must be submitted for approval immediately. This provision applies to April 21 only.
Q. 11: Why do all employees have to work just because schools have to make up a day?
A: All administrative offices and support facilities will be open to ensure a successful school day and support teachers, principals, and other school-based staff. This includes the central offices, as well as transportation, maintenance, and food services, among others. In fact, central office staff may be helping in schools if shortages of substitutes occur.
Q. 12: Is April 21 a make-up day for the closure on February 28 and, if so, why do 12-month employees who worked that day have to work again?
A: April 21 is not a make-up day for February 28. That day was merely the last day schools were closed among the 10 days lost to snow this year. There is not a one-to-one relationship between lost school days and make-up days.
Q. 13: What about the “emergency employees” who were required to work on the days when the school system was closed to most employees?
A: Emergency employees who worked on the days the school system was closed have already received the additional pay for those days if they worked a full shift.
Q. 14: What if I am upset and concerned?
A: Before doing anything, think about why schools need to be open. First, instructional time is valuable, and the school system is still open two days less this year (178) than the state's minimum requirement. Second, all employees are working fewer days than was scheduled for the year and no one has lost any pay because of this. Third, and finally, the decision to reopen school was made in the best interest of children.