Board Flunks Proposal To Extend School Year

November 18, 1990|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

Think extending the school calendar by 20 days is a good idea?

If so, you're out of step with the Carroll Board of Education, which has decided to give the state initiative "low priority" when it meets with the county's state delegation next year to develop a legislative package.

The state Board of Education proposal to boost the school year from 180 to 200 days over a period of four years, beginning in 1992-1993, was one of four state initiatives Carroll board members discussed with the public and administrators Wednesday.

Given "high priority," however, were proposals for mandatory kindergarten, pre-kindergarten education for all eligible disadvantaged children and early intervention services for at-risk children and families.

The remainder of the 15 initiatives, which range from raising the compulsory school attendance to age 18 or high school graduation (whichever comes first) to easing the requirements to become a teacher, will be discussed at the board's Dec. 12 meeting at the Board of Education offices.

The only initiative not on the board's discussion agenda is the Maryland School Performance Program, which sets standards districts should meet in order to be rated "satisfactory" or "excellent." Results of that program are scheduled to be released across the state tomorrow and Carroll is expected to fare well.

One of the arguments against extending the school calendar is the cost involved.

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said the proposal would cost Carroll about $11.5 million each year. In addition, the district could expect to spend about $6 million to air condition about 50 percent of its schools, which lack that luxury.

"It's very expensive," said board member Carolyn L. Scott, who supported the initiative. "I don't believe the state is going to give us money to do it. There are lots of problems, but the bottom line is, how important is education to us?"

Scott said educators do not have enough time now to teach all that they are required to teach. She said that will worsen with the continuing advances in technology, science and other fields.

Board member Cheryl A. McFalls said she is opposed to the measure because the additional days would take children away from their parents even more.

"When do we stop adding school days, even if money is available?" she asked. "I am not in favor of extending the school year. I do not see how that is going to improve the quality of education."

Board members Robert L. Fletcher and John D. Myers Jr. also opposed the state plan. Fletcher said residents with whom he has discussed the measure have been overwhelmingly opposed.

Several parents who attended the board meeting also voiced opposition to the plan.

"Elementary children do not need more days or time in school," said Westminster resident Bonnie Yake. "Children need more freedom and more time to grow up. They need less structure."

Less concern was raised about the kindergarten and early education proposals, some of which, like the federal Head Start and the Maryland Extended Elementary Education programs, are in place in Carroll.

Dorothy D. Mangle, Carroll's director of elementary schools, noted that even though kindergarten is optional, about 99 percent of Carroll County parents enroll their children in kindergarten.

Scott said mandatory kindergarten "doesn't impact greatly on us, but it's an important issue."

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