Schaefer pitches all-year schools Governor urges change to cut costs

August 22, 1993|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Staff Writer

OCEAN CITY -- The state's public school systems could meet the challenge of a growing pupil population by adapting to a year-round classroom teaching schedule, Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday.

State educators predict that by 2001, public schools will have to accommodate 855,000 students, a nearly 20 percent increase over the current number.

And although he has pledged to boost state spending on school construction next year, the governor said educators in some jurisdictions should consider expanding their academic calendars to save money.

Speaking before the summer convention of the Maryland Association of Counties, Mr. Schaefer yesterday asked that at least one of Maryland's 24 school systems volunteer to experiment with a year-round teaching plan similar to those in place in some schools in 15 other states.

"This is going to take a lot of imagination, a lot of courage," the governor told reporters after he addressed the MACO meeting. "The county executives will have to be progressive and not afraid of something new. I just hope one of them will do it."

He said he hoped that the state's first pilot project for a year-round school schedule could be in place as early as fall 1994.

Governor Schaefer made the proposal during a speech in which he formally released the report of his Task Force on School

Construction, a panel of educators, legislators and state officials that spent the past 10 months examining the capital funding needs of public education.

Advocates of the year-round school schedule argue that students retain more of what they are taught in the classroom if their studies are not interrupted by long summer vacations.

Yale Stenzler, director of the state Interagency Committee on School Construction, said education costs could be held down, too, because existing school buildings could be used throughout the year by a greater number of students.

Under a 12-month school calendar, at least a quarter of a school district's students would be in the classroom at any one time. Students would retain their traditional 10 weeks of vacation, but the time off would be given in increments instead of consecutively. While one group of students was on vacation, another group would be in school.

Dr. Stenzler said yesterday that by grouping students into "teams" that attend school during different months of the year, a school building's capacity could be increased.

l He said that although the maintenance costs of operating a school building 12 months a year would be higher, capital spending would be reduced because new school construction would be unnecessary in some districts.

Mr. Schaefer said he expects opposition to the year-round program from local school boards and teachers unions but said he hoped the economic benefits of the plan would win converts.

"You wouldn't have to build as many schools, so you could use some money for air conditioning if the schools aren't air-conditioned," he said.

Yesterday the governor also pledged to increase the state's base budget contribution to school construction from $60 million to $75 million for fiscal 1995.

In recent years, state legislators have added another $20 million annually to the governor's school capital budget, bringing total building funds to about $80 million.

Lawmakers yesterday were unsure what effect the governor's pledge would have on the total school construction budget, but one key legislator said Mr. Schaefer's plan would have no problems in Annapolis.

"If there's one thing most of my colleagues support, it's providing more money for school construction," said Sen. Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee.

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