School board may end half-days in elementaries, over teachers' objections

February 07, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Harford County schools may end half-days for elementary students next year, terminating what some parents have called a day care nightmare.

But teachers are opposed to the move because they will lose valuable planning time, according to the Harford County Educational Association, the teachers' union.

"Couldn't you combine half-days with other days teachers get off, like Election Day?" asked Marcia McCutcheon at a meeting Monday night at Fallston High School.

She told the school board and other officials that half-days were a burden to working parents, like herself, who had to scramble to make day care arrangements.

Mrs. McCutcheon said her daughter, Rachel, eats lunch at 10:40 a.m. on half-days, 40 minutes early.

Because school starts at 9 a.m. and ends 3 1/2 hours later, students don't get much learning time, she said.

"I don't like half-days, either. I really like school," said Rachel, a 10-year-old at Youth's Benefit Elementary in Fallston.

School Superintendent Ray R. Keech told the 100 or so parents at the Fallston meeting that half-days could end next year if the school system gets money to hire additional art teachers.

Hiring art teachers would free 50 minutes for all elementary teachers once a week.

Elementary teachers, who now receive eight half-days of planning time annually, are able to plan while students are in physical education, music, library or art classes, he said.

"That is one reason we have asked for more art teachers in the proposed operating budget for next year," he said.

The school system is asking for money to hire 16 art teachers so thatall elementary schools would be able to offer the subject. Only about half of the elementary schools have art classes now.

The school board will vote on the proposed budget Monday.

Mr. Keech said another reason to end half-days is that it disproportionately affects afternoon kindergarten. Starting next year, kindergartners, just as all other students, must have 180 days of school.

Afternoon kindergartners, under the current system, have eight fewer days because schools close in the afternoon eight times a year for teacher planning time.

Anne D. Sterling, school board president, said she would support the abolition of half-days.

"The half-days have created day care problems for many parents. They have had to rely on neighbors or others to take care of children when they come home. Sometimes there have been situations that have worried parents quite a lot," she said.

Jean R. Thomas, president of the teachers' union, said teachers are opposed to the abolition of half-days because of the disparity between elementary and secondary teachers in planning time.

"Elementary teachers, even with the half-days, get far less planning time than secondary teachers," she said.

Elementary school teachers have 30 minutes a day, while secondary teachers have 50 minutes a day.

The school system's plan to put one art teacher in each school is not enough, Mrs. Thomas said. Elementary students would have one art class a week, giving the regular classroom teacher 50 minutes of planning time.

Two art teachers per school, or additional special staff such as physical education or music teachers, would be needed to make up for the loss of the half days, she said.

And, Mrs. Thomas said, those teachers also need planning time.

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