AmericanFarm.com

Later start to school year could benefit Md. State Fair

By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
Senior Editor

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Time was school used to began each year on the day (or two) after Labor Day.
Not so, the last 20 years or so. School begins annually on a day before Labor Day, which day depending on respective boards of education.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot intends to change that if he can. He wants to revert to the after-Labor Day launch of the school year.
How come? He claims opening schools before Labor Day is costing Maryland money and is costing families increasingly valuable time together.
Under the banner “Let Summer be Summer,” Franchot has kicked off a petition drive to collect 10,000 signatures of citizens who, like him, believe that Maryland public schools should begin after Labor Day.
The petition will be delivered to members of the Maryland General Assembly during the next legislative session.
Franchot said that “in addition to the increase of tens of millions in direct economic activity for Maryland, starting school after Labor Day will bolster small businesses that rely on seasonal workers, increase wages for young people and provide families with another week of quality time together.”
Len Foxwell, Franchot’s chief of staff, noted that among the small businesses powered by seasonal workers are the agricultural and hospitality industries, often populated by college and senior high school students.
“Small business (in farming and hospitality) loses its summer task force at the top of their seasonal market,” he said.
A prime example is the Maryland State Fair where 4-Hers, FFAers and other young exhibitors have either got to lose school days or sacrifice the opportunity to get into the show ring, an opportunity they have worked for all year long.
Though 4-H and FFA shows are scheduled for weekends now, the exhibitors still prefer the full experience of showing, which often includes staying at the fair and animals during the duration of the event.
Fair attendance is affected on weekdays when school is in session for various districts.
The Maryland State Fair has a new general manager. He is Andy Cashman and he is in Franchot’s corner in the “Let Summer be Summer” campaign.
According to Cashman, “the 11-day state fair, first held in 1879, attracts about 400,000 visitors annually. I hope to grow that figure, and it would help if school started after Labor Day.”
Perhaps complicating Franchot’s mission is the fact that Labor Day is not the same date every year, it ranges from Sept. 1 to Sept. 7 depending on the year. For example, in 2015, Labor Day will fall on Sept. 7.
It will do so again in 2020. In 2024, it will fall on Sept. 6.
Those late days might prove to be troublesome for local school boards.
For example, the Talbot County School Board is about to vote on one of two school calendars for 2015.
Aware that Labor Day in the next school year falls on Sept. 7, both of the calendars presented to the Talbot board propose school starting dates well before Labor Day — one being Aug. 25, almost two full weeks before Labor Day. Teachers’ unions reportedly are bucking the proposed policy change from Franchot.
Moving opening day to after Labor Day reduces the “soft time” built into the calendar — snow days, teacher conferences, holidays, and the like.
Franchot’s backers reply: “Let’s give some of that time back to families and the teachers, who have families too. Time is too short.”