County students drink less than was reported in '92

December 10, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

State education officials erred in reporting last year that Howard County students led the state in illegal drinking, school board members learned yesterday.

"It's extremely discouraging to have your state department give you bad data and expect you to meet" criteria for state-mandated programs, said board Chairman Dana F. Hanna.

The percentage of Howard students who drink beer and wine is far less than was reported in the 1992 Maryland Adolescent Survey, which studied drug and alcohol use among 18,000 students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades, state education officials said.

In Howard, more than 900 students in five middle and six high schools responded to the survey.

The correct figures, according to state education officials, are as follows:

* 19.4 percent of sixth-graders drink beer, wine and wine coolers instead of 84.9 percent of them as was previously reported.

* 48.6 percent of eighth-graders consume alcohol instead of 78 percent.

* 59.7 percent of 10th-graders drink alcohol instead of 85.4 percent.

* 71.6 percent of 12-graders drink alcohol instead of 86.2 percent.

State education officials misread the percentage of county students who drink beer and wine, said Phyllis Utterback, assessment supervisor for the school system who presented the findings to the school board.

The figures were "printed from the wrong line" of a data tape, Ms. Utterback said.

Although Howard school officials initially challenged the figures in September, the mistake did not come to light until three weeks ago when someone told Mamie Perkins, health education supervisor for the school system, that the information was incorrect.

Board members, who doubted the initial figures, said they felt vindicated by the new findings.

"He picked up on the mistake right away and could get no one to believe him," said board member Deborah D. Kendig, referring to Mr. Hanna.

In other business, residents who live near the proposed site for an elementary school in northeastern Ellicott City told the board that if the school were built, it would bring unwanted traffic and alter the area's rural character.

The board has tentatively approved plans to build the elementary school, scheduled to open in September 1996, on 38 acres of land off Ilchester Road northeast of Talbots Landing in Ellicott City., on the same 160-acre parcel where Trinity School, a parochial school, is located.

The proposed school would occupy only 15 of the 38 acres.

Several parents of Trinity School students worry that the school system would use the remaining 23 acres to build a future middle school or high school.

"Where are those children [of the proposed school] going to go to middle school and high school," Cynthia Tifft, of Ellicott City, asked.

Board members told parents that they had no plans to develop the remaining 23 acres, and will examine the current capital budget, which describes the growth needs of the school system for the next 10 years.

The board is scheduled to make a final decision on the site Jan. 13.

In other business, the board approved a schematic design for Wilde Lake High School, which is scheduled to undergo a two-year renovation next summer.

Plans call for a three-story school building with commons areas, open classrooms, an information center that will include a media center, and clusters of science, math and technology classrooms.

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