Calendar – Frequently Asked Questions
How is the Howard County Public School System calendar developed?
A proposed calendar is developed by a Calendar Committee, which includes representatives of the Howard County Education Association, support staff, principals, central office staff, students and parents. Input from stakeholder groups is solicited throughout the committee’s deliberations.
The committee’s recommendation is presented to the Superintendent and senior staff, who forward it—with or without changes as necessary—to the Board of Education. The Board’s approval process includes a public hearing to allow community members an opportunity to comment on the proposal. The final decision rests with the Board of Education.
Who determines how long the school year will be?
The state of Maryland requires that students attend school for a minimum of 180 days each year. Local Boards of Education have the option to require more than 180 days of instruction but not less.
Are teachers required to work more than 180 days?
The number of days that teachers work is determined by each local Board of Education through the teacher contract. The current negotiated agreement between the Howard County Board of Education and the Howard County Education Association calls for teachers to work 192 days.
Why doesn’t the school year start after Labor Day?
Starting school after Labor would result in the school year running well beyond June 15 some years. If the school system needs to make up days lost during the year to inclement weather, students could be forced to attend into the third and even the fourth week of June.
Why do students have so many days off during the school year?
Maryland law requires that all public schools be closed on the following days:
- Friday following Thanksgiving
- Christmas Eve
- Christmas Day
- New Year’s Day
- Martin Luther King Day
- Presidents’ Day
- Friday before Easter
- Monday after Easter
- Memorial Day
In addition, the Howard County Board of Education has determined that schools will be closed on the following days:
- Labor Day
- Rosh Hashanah
- Yom Kippur
- Primary and General Election Days (State law requires schools close for students)
- Eid Al-Adha
- Lunar New Year Eve
Also, six non-student days are built into the calendar. On these days, teachers and staff report but students do not.
Why are schools closed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?
In 1979, the Board of Education established the policy of closing schools on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. The decision was made because the number of staff and student absences on those holidays had begun to impact the delivery of instruction.
Why do we have Spring Break for six days when other counties in Maryland have fewer?
Howard County is one of 15 school systems in Maryland that has a Spring Break of six or more days. While shortening Spring Break would support instructional momentum and result in the school year ending several days earlier, an extended break in the spring allows high school students to visit colleges and allows both teachers and students to take vacations. The Board of Education has considered shortening spring break many times but surveys indicate the majority of parents and staff prefer to keep the six-day break.
How are non-student days used during the school year?
Non-student days address several needs. These days are used for parent-teacher conferences, professional development for teachers, and to give teachers time to grade exams, write or revise student support plans, and meet in teams within and among schools.
The teacher contract calls for one day to be set aside so teachers can attend the Maryland State Education Association Conference. Professional development for teachers is critical to implementing research-based instructional practices to improve student achievement.
How is the teacher workday in May used?
The teacher workday scheduled in May gives teachers time to meet with grade-level teams to share student information. These information sharing sessions take place within and across schools and provide for smooth student transitions into the next school year and into summer school. This is referred to as the “articulation day.”
Why do we have so many half days during the school year?
Half days provide time for a wide variety of instruction-related activities that cannot take place when students are in school. Half days are used as follows:
Four days for parent teacher conferences
There are four half days designated for parent-teacher conferences: two in November and two in February for elementary and middle schools.
One day each in November and February is used for professional development at the high school level.
Three days for high school exams
Three half days are set aside in January and three at the end of the school year for high school exams. The shortened instructional schedule provides students with additional study time and teachers with time to grade exams and calculate grades. One day at the end of the high school exam week is a half day for all schools, which gives elementary and middle school teachers time to prepare grades and report cards, revise student support plans, and for team discussions of student progress.
Three days at the end of the school year
These half days allow teachers time to calculate grades, prepare report cards and pack up their classrooms. The half days at the end of the year also accommodate the high school exam schedule.
Why do these half days count as full days of instruction?
The Maryland State Department of Education considers any school day a full school day when the school is open for instruction for a time no less than 50 percent of the regular school day.
On half days, all schools dismiss three hours early, leaving a 3 ¾ hour instructional day for middle and high schools and a 3 ½ hour instructional day for elementary schools. Schools also must meet the state hours requirement of 1,170 at the high school level and 1,080 at the middle and elementary school levels annually.
It is often suggested that two half days be combined so students have a full day off instead. That would require an additional day be added to the teacher contract, which is a costly alternative.
Why are half days set aside for parent teacher conferences?
The Howard County Public School System encourages parental involvement. In order to accommodate all parents who wish to have conferences, the school system sets aside two half days and a full day in November and two half days in February for conferences. Teachers prefer the half days because a full day of back-to-back parent conferences is difficult given the preparation necessary for each conference.
Why aren’t makeup days built into the calendar?
When schools are closed due to inclement weather or any other unplanned situation, the local Board of Education must decide how the district will provide the required 180 days of instruction. The Howard County Board of Education has elected to extend the school year by the number of days needed to make up lost instructional days. Consideration has been given to using Spring Break, but this option can be problematic. If an inclement weather closing occurs close to Spring Break, it is too late for families to change plans made for Spring Break.