Has FCPS requested any waivers to the State’s school calendar requirements? Because Easter Monday is a holiday mandated by the state, our Board gave direction to staff to request a waiver from the requirement to close schools on this day so that we could open for students. Several other school systems requested waivers for this day, as well as for President’s Day. The state approved this request.
Additionally, the Board voted March 12 to request a two-day waiver from the Maryland State Department of Education. The Board decided against pursuing waivers for additional days at its March 26 meeting. The Board felt that in light of the fact that a total of seven additional days of instruction were lost, the challenge to students to receive adequate instruction was too great to waive more than two of those days. Many students in middle and high school must take High School Assessments related to the courses in which they are currently registered in order to fulfill graduation requirements.
Also at its March 26 meeting, the Board decided that if a one-day waiver is approved, it would be used towards the snow date taken on March 17 for which no makeup date has been scheduled. If a second waiver is approved, June 12 will no longer be a makeup day. The last day of school for students would then be June 11.
Are there any other schedule changes?
Yes. The Board voted to move a two-hour early dismissal from Friday, May 2, to Friday, May 9. This is due to the interim date being moved back a week. FCPS will also have a two-hour early dismissal Friday, March 28, which is the end of Term 3.
Why did we use Spring Break days as make up days rather than add days to the end of the school year?
We did add one day to the end of the school year, so far.
We specifically chose to position one of our make-up days in March and four over Spring Break because many of our students participate in state required assessments. Some measure student performance, like the Maryland School Assessments (MSAs), and are given in March. The High School Assessments (HSAs) are requirements for graduation and are given in mid-May. HSAs are required for Algebra 1, Biology, English 10, and Government, and students take these exams in the year in which they complete the course. This means some students are taking an HSA as early as 8th grade. The dates of these assessments are set by the state, and our goal is to make sure that teachers and students have adequate time to make enough progress through the curriculum so students are prepared for these tests.
We understand the difficulty it posed for families when we eliminated days from Spring Break.
We tried to balance the need for quality instructional days by adding one snow make-up day at the end of the school year.
What if my family has plans for spring break that we cannot/do not want to cancel?
It is FCPS policy that students who take trips with approval of their parents may be excused for up to two times per school year for a combined maximum of five days. If your student is or will be beyond the five day maximum, please contact your principal as we are communicating to all of our administrators that students with previous plans for spring break may still be given an excused absence under these circumstances. Please keep in mind that while the absence may be excused, students will still be responsible for the work they miss.
What about the idea of adding minutes to the school day or having students attend for a few hours on Saturdays to make up for lost instructional time?
Some districts in Virginia are doing just that. That’s because Virginia’s state code allows them to fulfill their instructional requirement in hours, stating they must provide "180 teaching days OR 990 hours," while Maryland code requires us to provide "at least 180 actual school days AND a minimum of 1,080 school hours.” While that is something we can work towards changing, it certainly won't happen in time to help us during this school year.
Are there more details about the waiver request being made by the Board?
Governor O’Malley called one of those “state of emergency” days “preemptively” the day before a massive winter storm. It did not force schools to close because the storm arrived the next day. It was a way to marshal and mobilize necessary resources and equipment ahead of the storm.
At its March 12 meeting, the Board of Education of Frederick County voted to request a two-day waiver from the state.
Historically, weather-related waivers have rarely been granted in the state of Maryland. The first time in recent history they were granted was in 1996. The second time was in 2010, when, some will remember, one storm dumped around 30 inches of snow on Frederick one Saturday, and schools were closed for the following week. That storm came on the heels of several significant storms that closed schools for several days in December and January.
The State Board gave local districts the following guidance in this matter:
In a waiver application, the school system had to demonstrate that they have made sufficient effort in providing instruction through calendar planning and modifications. Also, natural or civil disasters or severe weather conditions are sufficiently significant to warrant a waiver of days. Letters requesting waivers must be submitted late enough in the school year to be relatively confident of the number of days missed but early enough for the system to make appropriate adjustments to the school calendar.