Late start proposed to give teachers planning time Elementary plan to go to school board HARFORD COUNTY

September 12, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

A group of parents, teachers and union representatives believe they've found the perfect solution to the shortage of planning time during school hours for elementary teachers.

The plan, which has the unanimous approval of the executive boards of the Harford County Education Association -- the teachers union -- and the Harford County Council of PTAs, would start elementary classes one hour late one day a week.

Teachers would use that hour to plan lessons, grade papers or meet with other teachers, HCEA President Jean R. Thomas said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

On the other four days, school would begin 10 minutes early, at 8:50 a.m. instead of at 9 a.m., Mrs. Thomas said.

"This is one idea we think is workable in every elementary school," she said.

Mrs. Thomas said that the plan would probably have to be implemented in each of the county's 29 elementary schools for it to be acceptable to the school system because it would require shifting bus schedules.

She plans to present the proposal to the school board at its October meeting and would like to see it implemented in January. The plan, which over the course of a school year would give teachers about 36 hours of planning time, requires the approval of the seven-member school board.

Teachers were outraged in April when the board voted 6-1 to eliminate eight half-days of teacher planning time when the children were released early. School board members said that the half-days, or about 32 hours, were day care nightmares for working parents and took away from classroom learning time.

Union representatives, teachers and parents began meeting in August to develop ideas that would make up for the lost time.

"We did not expect to come up with just one idea, but in the end we decided that this idea, the more we looked at it out of all the other options, was the best one," Mrs. Thomas said.

Elementary school teachers get about 40 minutes planning time each day, nearly 10 minutes less daily than secondary teachers, Mrs. Thomas said. She said that that's not nearly enough to prepare for class, photocopy handouts and grade papers.

Kathy Carmello, a Bel Air parent who chaired the meetings, said many elementary parents felt they had to "do something" to show teachers that their concerns were not being ignored.

Mrs. Carmello, who has a son at Ring Factory Elementary in Bel Air, said that parents will be asked for their opinions before the October school board meeting.

"If this plan doesn't have the support of the parents, as well as the teachers, it will never fly," she said.

Pat Benedict, PTA president of the William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary in Abingdon, said opening school late one day a week could cause day care problems for working parents.

"I'd like to see each school develop its own solution before we try to make one solution fit every school," she said.

Deputy Superintendent Albert F. Seymour said the school system had not had a chance to study the proposal and could not comment.

However, Mr. Seymour said that moving up bus schedules, on the four days that school would start 10 minutes early, could be difficult.

He said opening times are staggered at elementary and secondary schools so that the fewest number of buses is required. Elementary school starts at 9 a.m., middle school starts at 8:15 a.m. and high school starts at 7:45 a.m.

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