Happiest of New Year’s to you and yours! Like you, I am praying for a better year than the last and am hopeful that the current COVID surge subsides as quickly as possible.
Like many of you, I want nothing more than our children to remain in school buildings and learning in-person. I am quite tired of our children bearing the brunt of this pandemic while life occurs relatively normally outside of school. I know there are many rumors swirling, so let me be as clear as I can. I cannot and will not ever support a systemwide closure of our schools under any circumstances due to COVID-19 until or unless restaurants, malls, movie theaters, and other businesses are also closed. Cohort, class, grade, or individual school closures on a temporary basis due to an outbreak is the call of the county health officer and will inevitably continue to occur as has been the case since the fall.
Many of you have also asked about virtual instruction in lieu of taking a systemwide inclement weather day. The Maryland State Board of Education and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) have not indicated to us or to the other Maryland public school systems that a virtual day in lieu of an inclement weather day would be acceptable. Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) has posed this question and this scenario would seem to be a reasonable course of action, in my view. Due to a fourth snow day occurring on January 7, while I write this article, the school year will be extended by one day. This must occur officially before AACPS officially asks for a waiver from MSDE, which we will do.
Next, let me address the 2022-2023 academic calendar that was adopted by the Board of Education during its January 5 meeting. This calendar includes start dates that correspond with Dr. George Arlotto's recommendation as well as the recommendation of the AACPS Calendar Committee. The Calendar Committee, under AACPS policy, produces draft calendars every year and consists of volunteers from every stakeholder group including students, parents, teachers, PTA, CAC (Citizens Advisory Committee), and members from every bargaining unit. The calendar includes three snow days as required by state law, the third marking period ends before Easter/spring break, and this calendar conforms to state law, which requires a minimum of 180 school days as well as a minimum of 1080 hours of instruction (1,170 for high school) per academic year.
Had we started after Labor Day, we would be in school until at least the end of the third week of June, which would be unacceptable to most, including this board member. I applaud the board for establishing an inclusive and equitable calendar based on logic, heeding nearly all Calendar Committee recommendations.
Finally, now that it is January, our budget season is in full swing. Our second, and final, budget hearing will occur at Old Mill High School on January 13 at 6:00pm. A budget workshop will occur on Tuesday, January 18, at 6:00pm in the AACPS board room. Both, of course, are open to the public, however, public testimony will only occur during the budget hearing. As always, your concerns and ideas can be shared at any time with me and the entire Board of Education by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, the county executive is hosting budget hearings for each of the seven councilmanic districts. All of these hearings are virtual this year due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. The hearing specifically for District 5 residents will occur on Tuesday, February 1, at 6:00pm. For more information or to register to speak, please visit www.aacounty.org/budgettownhalls. As always, I can be reached at email@example.com or 443-534-2660.
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