To a parent, the familiar refrain of "I forgot my homework," or "Really, Mom, the teacher didn't give us any," is often a prelude to discussions of responsibility and honesty -- and then the homework still isn't completed.
Unless your child is a student at Marley Middle School.
Thanks to a cooperative effort between the school and the C & P Telephone Co., students and their parents will have access to a Homework Hot Line 24 hours a day.
The system, which went on-line last week, works in a manner similar to the answer-call service offered to residential and business customers of C & P.
After placing a call to the central voice message service -- 789-9997 -- the caller will beinstructed to enter the number of the Homework Hot Line, 761-0934.
A message from Principal Robert Janovsky will assist the caller in selecting the proper "mailbox" to retrieve homework information from the teaching team.
"What we're trying to do is improve the amount of homework that is turned in. That's the overall goal," Janovsky said. "Students are graded on homework, and often their grades are affected by not turning in homework.
"Right now, the school's communication with the home and the home's communication with the school -- because many parents are working -- is often very difficult. With this system, a parent can verify what the homework is and speak with more authority and knowledge with the youngster."
Interest in the project began two years ago when Janovsky, former guidance counselor Sandra Seward and C & P Telephone representative Barbara Fletcher began exploring the possibility of installing a computer system to provide homework information.
The proposed system would allow two-way communication between the school and the parents.
To purchase the hardware and software for an interactive computer system would cost the school approximately $10,000. With limited financial assistance from theBoard of Education, the school turned to the community to help raisemoney. So far, $3,000 has been collected.
Since the initial talks, Bell Atlantic has made the technology available for a similar, albeit less advanced, service for a modest monthly rental fee.
"We arestill looking at the other program. This is an introduction to get people used to it and maybe get them to give some money," Fletcher said.
The charge to connect the system and various start-up costs were absorbed by C & P. The monthly fee of $55 will be paid for by the Marley Middle Parent-Teacher Association.
Marley Middle and C & P already had forged a partnership through the corporation's North Arundel Community Relations Team. Fletcher and five other C & P employees are involved in the school's mentor program -- volunteering to provide leadership and help to students. Their assistance with the HomeworkHot Line was an extension of that effort.
What do the students think? Seventh-grader Brandon Kelley sees two sides.
"I used it the first day to get my assignments. It was pretty easy," said Brandon.
But there's a down side, he admitted.
"I can't tell my mom that I don't have any homework anymore."