OCEAN CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Gov. Larry Hogan has announced that Maryland’s public schools will open their doors after Labor Day in future school years.
He made the announcement at a news conference called by himself and Comptroller Peter Franchot on Ocean City’s boardwalk Wednesday afternoon.
Hogan said 75 percent of Marylanders support the idea.
After the announcement, he signed an Executive Order mandating that classes not only begin after Labor Day, but also end no later than June 15.
The policy will be in effect by the 2017-2018 school year, Hogan said.
“The action that we’re taking today will help protect the traditional end of summer, not only for families on vacation this week, but also for the teachers and the students working here in Ocean City and all across the state for the summer.”
Hogan also touted what he called economic, environmental, health and public safety benefits of the plan.
“August is the second hottest month of the year here in Maryland. Later school starts will allow us to help ensure that students, particularly those in Baltimore County and Baltimore City, are kept out of hot, un-air conditioned classrooms. And a later start date will even prevent Baltimore County, which has unfortunately failed to air condition its schools, from losing so many days of school due to heat-related closures.”
“The schools are very hot,” said Ginger Shekell. “The kids get a mini week then another mini week. It really does disrupt the learning process.”
On Tuesday night, the Baltimore County Board of Education voted to change its own brand new heat policy. The policy required 37 schools without A/C to shut their doors if the heat index went above 90 degrees for any part of the day. That happened twice in the first week of school.
The amendment made it so that kids will still have to go to class if the heat index fails to hit 90 degrees by 11 a.m. However, if the heat index is expected to reach 90 degrees by 3 p.m., parents will have the option to keep their kids home and mark it as an excused absence.
“For all of the other counties that do have air conditioning, this policy will help them save significantly on their energy costs,” Hogan said. “It will provide environmental benefits, too, by reducing local ozone generation numbers with less school buses on the roads during the heart of the ozone season.”
Hogan cited studies that he says have shown there are “no adverse effects whatsoever” to delaying the start of school, and that it provides “a substantial boost to Maryland’s economy.”
The number of instructional days for students will not change at all, “and in the event of too many snow days in school systems, they can apply for a waiver of the 180-day requirement just like they’ve always been able to do.”
The new policy also will not change sports schedules for students.
The Order includes a waiver provision so that schools that can provide “compelling justification as to why they should be exempted” from a post-Labor Day start date will have the ability to apply to the State Board of Education for a waiver.
However, Hogan’s Order is causing waves of controversy.
The teachers union came out swinging even before the governor finished his press conference saying, Hogan’s plan will cost families more for child care –calling his executive order a “headline grabbing distraction from budget cuts.”
“I thought it was totally irresponsible. He does not understand the needs of our school system,” said Abby Beytin, with the Baltimore County Teachers Union.
Beytin and other opponents argue that it takes away local control from schools systems and could interfere with winter and summer breaks and testing schedules.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz says the decision should not have been in the governor’s hand’s alone.
“This is certainly worthy of a discussion, but that should include the educational experts, it should include the General Assemby.”