On Feb. 8, HCPSS Interim Superintendent Michael J. Martirano made the decision for the four snow days to be made up partly during spring break. Students and staff will have normal school days on Apr. 4, 5 and 6 and a half-day on May 18. This change has shortened spring break due to the recently implemented state law that requires the school year to be completed by June 15.
Since then, HCPSS has also added June 15, a Muslim holiday, as a make-up day in order to account for a fifth snow day that forced schools to close on Mar. 2. The school system will now be required to request an exemption for any additional inclement weather days that the county incurs.
The inclement weather make-up days continue to be controversial with people in the Howard County school system. There have been over 175 requests from teachers to take off during spring break; however, the Superintendent has threatened to terminate any teacher who is extending their break on these mandated make up days.
If a teacher takes a “sick” or “personal” day between Apr. 4 and 6, a doctor’s note must be presented to the principal in order for the teacher to be excused from work. This is causing a great deal of stress for teachers who had plans to travel during this week. The school system had advised teachers to invest in vacation insurance, but many are asking if this is helpful.
A staff member stated, “I think they need to check the teachers’ contracts to see what they are allowed through the Union because people make plans, and we’ve always had this spring break, and people pay money for tickets. So no, I don’t think it’s fair.”
Some have argued that the inclement weather days should have been made up for during scheduled off days such as President’s Day, but these holidays are state-mandated, therefore forcing the school system to close school on those days. Others have made the complaint that the manner in which the school board chose to make up the snow days was too abrupt and causes too many personal issues for families who have planned vacations.
“From a learning standpoint, it makes more sense to take days out of the middle of the year,” freshman Ally Currie said. “I was very upset because I had already made plans with my family to visit Mexico on these days. Even though I don’t like it, I think these days should have been added on to the end of the year or made up by taking away other holidays.”
Even so, HCPSS has expressed that adding additional days to the end of the school year is not permitted due to the Maryland State Department of Education’s enforcement that the school year must end by June 15.