New schools on the cutting edge Classes display high-tech features

August 30, 1993|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Staff Writer

When students walk into two new schools in Howard County today, they'll find learning isn't just about the ABC's or the three R's anymore.

It's about CD-Roms and laser discs, videocassette recorders operated by classroom telephones and computerized book catalogs you can dial into -- from home.

"It's a long way from when I was in school," said Earl Slacum, principal of the new 440-student Rockburn Elementary School in Elkridge. "We had one teacher with six grades in one room.

"I guess that kind of dates me," said Mr. Slacum, who left his position as principal of Stevens Forest Elementary School to lead Rockburn's administration.

Another high-tech feature is the wireless headphones for foreign language students to listen to tapes at Marriottsville's new Mount View Middle School. The students can even speak into the headphones. Mount View also has a color and black-and-white darkroom for developing photos and a video studio.

Both Mount View and Rockburn have telephones in every classroom. It's not a luxury. It's necessary to operate one of the VCRs in the media center.

Teachers dial into the media center and are connected to the VCR. Then they punch numbers for "play," "pause," and "rewind."

"I call [the media center] command central," said Marion Payne, Mount View's principal, a 20-year Howard County educator and former principal of Owen Brown Middle School in Columbia.

Rockburn is mostly complete. Workers spent last week tightening bolts in the new furniture and testing fire alarms and other new equipment.

While most academic classrooms are finished, Mount View still has some furniture on order and elective classrooms that have yet to be completed.

NB The school's construction was placed on a 13-month schedule. A

school like Mount View usually takes more than 20 months to build.

In addition to the high-tech equipment, the schools also have space reserved for community activities.

Parents and students like what they see.

"I think it's wonderful," said Pam Mazur, mother of Mount View sixth-grader Katie Mooney. "I want to come to school here. I wish I was a kid again."

"For once I like school," said Katie Jeschke, an incoming sixth-grader at Mount View during orientation at the school last week.

But the new schools and sophisticated teaching equipment have raised the ire of parents who have children attending the county's older schools. They want their children to receive some the same benefits the students at the county's newest facilities are getting.

Kenneth Gill, principal at Wilde Lake Middle School in Columbia, said he has ordered new computers for his school, comparable to those at Rockburn and Mount View.

"I've had mothers come in with tit for tat," Mr. Gill said. "But the county has a commitment to equity

in the schools."

Of course, few of the other 54 schools in the county can compare to the $8.5 million investment at Rockburn and $10.9 million at Mount View.

"You're always going to be playing catch up with the older schools," said Patti Caplan, spokeswoman for the school system."We're not going to build old schools.

"Sound systems are going; lockers need replacing; some schools don't even have lockers."

Another high school and an elementary school open next year, a middle school in 1995 and two more elementary schools and a high school in 1996.

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