Leonardtown, MD  — St. Mary’s County Public Schools (SMCPS) have five snow cays built into their school calendar. This year only four were used, leaving the schools with a day to give back. The decision on which day proved to be controversial.

If that day was taken off the end of the school year, the final day for students would have been a half day on Monday, June 13. Dr. Charles Ridgell, who coordinates the school calendar, came up with an alternate suggestion for the school board at its April 13 meeting. His idea–use April 29, which was a scheduled day off for students and a professional development day for teachers. The proposal was to have students go to school a half day on that day and have Friday, June 10 be a half day and the last day of school.

In the end the board went along with that suggestion. But board member Dan Carney expressed concern about the loss of the professional development day for the teachers. And board member Rita Weaver said many parents had made plans for that day, such as doctor’s appointments and visiting grandparents, and the change was being made without much notice.

But board chairman Karin Bailey agreed with Dr. Ridgell’s proposal, saying having students in class in April would be more productive for them. Board member Cathy Allen, put it another way, saying the buses would be half full if the last day was a half day on Monday.  She called it “an exercise in checking a box” to fulfill the state requirement for 180 days of school.

Allen said she understood Weaver’s concerns. But felt she could justify a decision to use April 29 instead of that Monday in June.

School Superintendent Scott Smith agreed, He said the last few half days of school are often used for assemblies and awards programs, but that attendance may be low if the last day was a Monday. He noted in response to Carney’s concerns that teachers will still have several hours April 29 and also will have their final two days, which will be June 13  and 14, for professional development.

April 29 is listed on the school calendar as a potential sixth snow makeup day, so Ridgell said parents were made aware that the day off for students could potentially change.

The motion to change the calendar to reflect Ridgell’s proposal was made by board vice chairman Mary Washington and ultimately was approved unanimously.

Contact Dick Myers at  dick.myers@thebaynet.com