Expansion planned for kindergarten Baltimore Co. proposal calls for all-day classes

July 16, 1992|By Meredith Schlow | Meredith Schlow,Staff Writer Staff writers Joe Nawrozki and Larry Carson contributed to this article.

Baltimore County joined just four other Maryland counties and Baltimore City yesterday when officials announced plans to expand the public school system's kindergarten program to all-day classes in 32 schools.

Baltimore County officials also proposed an alternative middle school program that will keep expelled students in classes during regular school hours.

Both plans would require adding new teachers.

Only Garrett and Caroline counties offer all-day classes to all of their kindergarten students. And in Baltimore, 34 of the city's 117 elementary schools offer all-day kindergarten classes.

Montgomery County will offer the program in at least eight schools in September.

A small number of schools in Prince George's County also have an all-day kindergarten program.

In Baltimore County, about 2,000 of the county's projected 7,000 kindergarten students will receive all-day instruction, part of new school Superintendent Stuart Berger's plan to improve early childhood education during the 1992-1993 school year.

"What we believe is that the earlier you get involved with youngsters, the easier it is," said Dr. Berger. "It's very difficult to remediate."

The superintendent also proposed 8.4 positions for special kindergarten classes and 4.5 positions for instructional assistants who will teach at the two special education schools slated for the kindergarten expansion.

Elimination of midday transportation for kindergarten students will partially fund the expansion, which will cost $2.3 million.

Additional cuts totaling about $2 million will be made in other transportation programs and in food services, textbook purchases and paper expenses.

Dr. Berger said he was confident the cuts in textbook purchases would have little effect in the classroom.

The county executive must approve the transfer of school funds of less than 10 percent. The County Council must approve transfers of more than 10 percent.

"These changes clearly illustrate a willingness on the part of the board of education, county executive and County Council to work cooperatively on education issues," Dr. Berger said.

"Moreover, this teamwork reflects a genuine interest in the most efficient use of our educational resources," he added.

The program for expelled students calls for the addition of four middle school alternative program teachers.

Currently, expelled middle school students attend a twilight program from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

The change would provide all-day classes for expelled students at five county sites.

Sudbrook Middle School, which will be vacated in September when Milford Mill High School returns to its renovated building, will be one of the alternative sites.

Others are the Rosedale Center and the Catonsville Career Center. School officials have not yet determined the other two sites, which will be in the central and southeast areas, according to Dale R. Rauenzahn, specialist for alternative education programs in the county.

A decision is expected by the end of the month.

The alternative programs would offer expelled and troubled students smaller classes that emphasize behavior in addition to the regular curriculum.

Students will also receive more individualized attention, according to Rosalie Hellman, president of the Board of Education.

Dr. Berger said students who exhibit consistent social problems at their regular schools may be placed at the alternative sites before being expelled.

The addition of 10 resource teachers to work with troubled students was also proposed for middle schools with high numbers of suspensions and expulsions.

Mrs. Hellman said the resource teachers hope to reduce the county's number of expulsions "by trying to get to the kids before they get to the point where they are expelled."

But she added that the board still supports the county's strict expulsion policy, which, she said, would not change.

Ed Veit, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, called the proposed changes "an interesting precedent, and I'm glad to see it happen.

"We had a tendency in the past to be locked in [to the budget]," Mr. Veit said. "This is a major shift. Certainly the addition of teachers excites the heck out of us."

Mrs. Hellman said the board would continue to improve the quality of education in the county despite difficult economic times.

Mrs. Hellman said the board would ratify the proposals at its next meeting Aug. 13.

Schools involved

These schools will be involved in the kindergarten program: Battle Grove, Battle Monument, Bear Creek, Berkshire, Charlesmont, Church Lane, Colgate, Deer Park, Edgemere, Elmwood, Featherbed Lane, Grange, Hawthorne, Hebbville, Hillendale, Logan, Martin Boulevard, McCormick, Owings Mills, Powhatan, Riverview, Rolling Road, Sandalwood, Sandy Plains, Scotts Branch, Seneca, Shady Spring, Sussex, Wellwood, Winand, Winfield and Woodmoor.

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