Schools weigh double session Year-round school also considered to control crowding

December 02, 1992|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Howard County educators are considering a longer school day split into two shifts to accommodate the 14,000 additional students expected in the next 10 years.

The idea is being discussed as the schools address next year's budget and look for economical ways to avoid overcrowded classrooms in the next decade. Year-round school is also being considered.

The double session plan could mean two groups of students would attend school at different times of the day -- for example, freshmen and sophomores from 7:15 a.m. to noon and juniors and seniors from 12:15 p.m. to 5 p.m.

But the plan would only be a temporary solution to overcrowding as the school system builds new schools, according to a report presented to Board of Education members last week.

"In most cases, double session is not used for a long period of time," said Associate Superintendent James R. McGowan, who presented the plan.

The plan is a way to decrease the cost of school construction, expected to cost $250 million.

On the high school level, the plan could save the school system $30 million if it delayed building one new school for three years, Mr. McGowan said.

Under a double session plan, the school system would be able to increase capacity by as much as 100 percent and allow teachers more flexibility in arranging their schedule, the report said.

Supporters in other school districts say their teachers had a better morale and their student attendance rate was higher.

While double sessions may be a short-term answer to money woes and overcrowded schools, Mr. McGowan said the idea does have drawbacks:

* School administrators elsewhere complain that they have to hold each faculty meeting twice. They say they had problems scheduling parent-teacher conferences and maintaining the building because it was in continuous use.

* Parents whose children went to double-session classes were concerned about the early arrival and late departures, especially during winter.

One of the major problems is transferring students in the dark, both in the morning and afternoon, Mr. McGowan said. "The concern is kids walking or kids climbing school buses," he said.

* Students may lose out on the number of classes they can take or face less class-time instruction because they will go to school for about five hours a day instead of about seven. But they can make up lost class time if schools extend the day or school year.

* Scheduling extracurricular activities and sport practices may be difficult because students in the same activities will start and end classes at different times.

Other school districts have handled the problem by scheduling junior varsity practices in the afternoon and varsity practices in the morning.

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