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Md. Governor's Post-Labor Day School Start Mandate Sends Districts Scrambling

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School administrators in Maryland are being forced to rework their schedules for next school year following a new mandate that classes not begin before Labor Day.

Gov. Larry Hogan filed an executive order this week requiring that schools not start before Labor Day. His order also specifies that the school year can't go beyond June 15. The new mandate wil go into effect in the 2017-18 school year.

The Republican governor framed his decision in terms of providing families with more vacation time and giving the state an economic boost.

"This isn't just a family issue. It's an economic and public safety issue," he said Wednesday while standing on the Ocean City boardwalk, a popular vacation spot on the state's Eastern Shore.

Hogan also cited poll results showing widespread support for the idea and mentioned the plight of students in classrooms without air conditioning.

"August is the second hottest month of the year here in Maryland," he said. "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."

A poll conducted last year by researchers at Goucher College found that 72 percent of Maryland residents favored a statewide mandate to begin school after Labor Day. Still, the governor's move was unusual in that, nationally, most decisions about when school should start are made at the district level, and the trend across the country in recent years has been to start school earlier rather than later to maximize learning time.

 According to data from a 2014 Education Commission of the States report, 36 states and the District of Columbia leave it up to districts or regions to decide when school should start. Only Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia dictate that school may not start before Labor Day. Virginia allows waivers to the law for some districts, and Minnesota also makes exceptions in some cases.

Some school leaders in Maryland have expressed concern about how they'll fit everything in under the new guidelines. State law requires 180 days of instruction. Hogan's executive order does allow districts to apply for waivers from the post-Labor Day start date, but districts would have to show "compelling justification" for the exemption, which would be granted by the state department of education.


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