Off-hour Classes Studied As Alternative To 7-period Day Centennial Loses Bid To Keep Its Extra Period

November 21, 1990|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

A lower-cost alternative to the seven-period day that would allow high school students to take extra classes before and after school, at night and on weekends, was scheduled for introduction to the county school board Tuesday.

The alternative would also offer credit by examination to students who passed proficiency tests in selected courses.

County school officials' long-awaited recommendation on some form of seven-period day came one week after Centennial High School parents, teachers and students made a last-ditch unsuccessful effort to get two officials to change their minds about eliminating the school's seventh-period option.

The price tag of a full seven-period day in seven county high schools would be $2.5 million in 1991-1992, while the cost of the off-hour alternative would be about $1.5 million less, according to a report submitted by Daniel L. Jett, director of high schools. Wilde Lake was not considered in the recommendation since it already allows students to earn additional credits per year.

Most of the costs represent salaries and fringe benefits for additional teachers, since teachers would not be asked to increase their current workload of five periods per day.

The recommendation for off-hour classes and proficiency credit is a less expensive alternative, but cost was not the major consideration, said Superintendent Michael E. Hickey.

Hickey said the additional classes, which could be offered beginning with the 1991-1992 school year, "may serve our needs just as well for a period of time and may lead to a seven-period day in the future."

The superintendent said his staff already had a detailed description of the seven-period day from a 1987 report that recommended it, but took a second look at the number of students who would be affected.

The April 1987 report cited a survey showing that approximately half the students in county high schools wanted or needed additional courses they could not fit into their schedules.

Jett's report said that today, only 10 to 20 percent of the county's 8,248 high school students would be affected, "not nearly the 50 percent as previously thought."

The school board rejected the seven-period day in 1987-1988 because of cost. If the board endorses the newly recommended alternative, Hickey is expected to include financing for it in the 1991-1992 operating budget request he will submit to the board in January.

The alternative program would add two teachers to teach before- and after-school classes at each of the seven high schools involved.

Evening and Saturday classes would be open countywide, but would be conducted at one school building and students would have to provide their own transportation. One teacher would be hired for each night or Saturday course, with the number of courses based on minimum enrollment of 20 students.

While the board looks at the recommended alternative, two board members and two school officials rejected requests last week to allow Centennial High School to continue its seventh period.

Approximately 55 parents, students and teachers met with Jett, Associate Superintendent James R. McGowan, Board Chairman Karen B. Campbell and board member Dana F. Hanna to ask for a reversal of the order to phase out the school's seventh period.

For 13 years, Centennial has allowed students to take a seventh class by skipping lunch break, an option that many use to fit in elective courses such as vocal and instrumental music.

Last summer, Jett ordered Centennial High Principal Sylvia S. Pattillo to begin phasing out the option by denying it to freshmen this school year.

So many students signed up, 163 in 1989-1990, that class size rose to the highest average in the county, the director of high schools said.

Several parents made it clear they did not expect Centennial's option to be replaced with a similar countywide program next year.

"Why not leave Centennial's seven-period day until you get your seven-period day?" asked parent Edward Donahue.

Jett replied that it was "time to take care of it and not let it continue," although board member Hanna said later that he would have favored allowing the Centennial program to continue until the school system had an alternative in place.

"The decision stands, so we as a group of parents have few options we can do," PTSA President Judy Butler said at the end of the meeting. She urged the parents to channel their energy into a fight for a countywide solution and to make their views known to school board members and the County Council.

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