Council urged to study year-round schools Hearing conducted on resolution to set up pilot program

November 10, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb acknowledged last night that year-round school may seem like a radical idea, but urged her colleagues not to shy from it.

"It's essential that we find alternatives to meet the needs of the students in the county," Ms. Lamb said at a council hearing on her resolution urging the Board of Education to study implementing a year-round school calendar.

As a first step, the Annapolis Democrat said, the board should begin a pilot program in one feeder system, consisting of a high school and the middle and elementary schools that feed into it.

Ms. Lamb introduced her resolution last month, acting on Gov. William Donald Schaefer's challenge in August that at least one of Maryland's 24 school districts institute a year-round schedule to see whether it would reduce school construction costs.

Anne Arundel school officials estimate that they will have to spend $382 million over the next five years to build new schools to handle increasing enrollment and to renovate older, deteriorating buildings.

"What it really boils down to is we really don't have $382 million to spend over the next five years," Ms. Lamb said. Besides, she argued, leaving schools empty three months a year is inefficient.

"There is not a business in America that would consider constructing a building and using it 75 percent of the time," she said.

Jack White, the school system's acting director of finance, said that if the council approves the resolution, the school board will -- study the issue. But he pointed out some problems.

Before the board could consider holding classes during the hot summer months, it would have to install air conditioning in the 60 schools that do not have it. The bill would come to between $35 million and $40 million, he said.

Maintenance workers use the summer break to perform major repair or renovation in the county's 120 schools.

For example, because of air-quality problems, most roofing projects are done during the summer, when there are no children in the buildings.

When roofing projects have proceeded during the academic year, "sometimes schools have had to be evacuated because the fumes from [roofing materials] get sucked into the school," Mr. White said.

Once the word got out that year-round schools were a possibility in the county, the school board began getting letters opposing the idea. The mayor and council of Ocean City wrote and "begged the Board of Education not to do this," Mr. White said. "It would kill the economy of Ocean City if we went to 12 months."

The managers of the Kings Dominion theme park wrote a similar letter, he said.

Councilman Carl G. Holland, a Pasadena Republican, introduced amendment to Ms. Lamb's resolution that would require a public hearing to be held in the area being considered for year-round schools. The amendment was approved.

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