Ardine Williams (left), Amazon's vice president of workforce development, speaks with students who completed the company's Future Engineer program at Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, Md., on May 16. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
**FILE** Ardine Williams (left), Amazon's vice president of workforce development, speaks with students who completed the company's Future Engineer program at Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, Md., on May 16. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Prince George’s County Public Schools could join other school systems in Maryland to revert to marking the first day of school before Labor Day.

According to two proposed options, the 2020-21 school year would start Aug. 31 and end June 15, barring closings for inclement weather.

School board member Belinda Queen’s daughter, Sharnae Via, 19, supports starting the school year after Labor Day.

“I felt I did better [in school],” said Via, who graduated last year from Central High School in Capitol Heights.

Queen said she’s heard from some parents who want their children to start school after Labor Day, especially those with families in other countries. Although Queen enjoys spending vacation time before the September holiday with her stepchildren and grandchildren, she said it helps teachers build in professional development days for staff.

“If that development day is needed for them to be great teachers and to have that good spirit teaching my children and my grandchildren … I say give them that professional development day,” she said. “As a parent, I always adjust. In society, you learn to adjust.”

According to this year’s school calendar, there are five professional development days after the first day of school, including three teacher days when school ends three hours early for students and schools are closed. In the proposed 2020-21 calendar, there would be six days — schools would be closed for three days and two-hour early dismissal for three other days.

Before the board makes a formal decision, parents and guardians have until Jan. 2 to participate in an online survey. The survey doesn’t specifically ask about the Labor Day proposal, but the last questions allow participants to provide any other suggestions or comments about the calendar.

Other questions include the reinstatement to close schools on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, institute the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr and whether to have parent-teacher conferences on Oct. 12 (Columbus Day) or Nov. 11 (Veterans Day).

The board isn’t scheduled to formally approve the school calendar until Jan. 9.

In the meantime, school boards in Baltimore City and Montgomery, Frederick and Anne Arundel counties already chose to begin school before Labor Day. Baltimore County will have students return Sept 8, one day after Labor Day.

School systems received the autonomy to organize its calendars after the Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly overturned a veto this year from Gov. Larry Hogan who instituted an executive order in 2016 for every school to start after Labor Day.

Hogan, who made the official announcement in Worchester County in Ocean City where schools historically started after the holiday, has argued it allows families more time to spend together near the end of the summer, students not spending time in hot classrooms and can save schools money.

However, opponents argued students lose academic time away from the school and parents spent more money on child care when some summer camps and other activities would end in early August.

Back in Prince George’s, schools CEO Monica Goldson unveiled a proposed $2.3 billion fiscal year 2021 budget that seeks to incorporate some recommendations form the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission.

According to a budget summary, the spending plan would increase by $119 million, or 5.4 percent, from the current budget.

The biggest expenditure, similar to all school districts, rests with salaries and employee benefits that account for 82 percent of the expenditures.

About 55 percent of the school system’s revenue comes from the state for special education, free and reduced lunch meals and expand pre-kindergarten.

The budget also calls for hiring additional weekend maintenance staff in a county where more than half of the school buildings are at least 50 years old.

Community sessions on the budget are scheduled for Jan. 21 and 28 and Feb. 4. Although the school board approves the budget, the law allows the county council the final say.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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