Board OKs geography requirement

January 16, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Staff Writer

A new graduation requirement, school redistricting in Aberdeen and report cards without grades were some of the issues the school board faced last week.

After months of discussion, the board approved on Monday a half-year of geography as a graduation requirement, beginning with incoming freshmen in September 1994.

Several board members, while agreeing on the importance of the subject, said they were concerned about adding another requirement.

"I have grave concerns about mandating [courses] for youngsters," said Anne D. Sterling, the lone no vote among the six other board members and one student representative.

George D. Lisby echoed many board members' sentiments when he said, partly in exasperation and partly in jest, "Let's accept geography as a half-credit with a freeze on further mandates."

Anticipating another prolonged discussion at the meeting, Schools Superintendent Ray R. Keech had alerted school board members earlier that day that a public hearing would be held Wednesday at Aberdeen Middle Schools on the redistricting of Aberdeen's four elementary schools -- Bakerfield, Hillsdale, Hall's Cross Roads and Roye-Williams -- to allow more time for dialogue with the community.

Several Aberdeen parents, unaware of the newly scheduled meeting, showed up Monday to comment on the redistricting.

One parent wondered aloud from the audience whether Wednesday's meeting would be a "show and tell."

"It sounds like you've made your decision," he told the board.

Ronald R. Eaton, vice president of the board, assured the families that a "second look [at the redistricting proposal] was being done."

At an earlier board meeting Monday, Patricia L. Skebeck, principal of Hall's Cross Roads Elementary, presented a new report card system for prekindergarten through second-grade students that uses a checklist instead of letter grades.

Mrs. Skebeck, who heads the committee that is working on the reporting method, said that the final form would be complete by April, at which time the board will vote on it.

She said that parents have been surveyed about the progress reports, which are being used for the third year in a pilot program at nine county elementary schools, and that there have been only five negative responses in that time.

"What does [a poor grade] do for a 5-year-old [but tell him], 'You're already a failure,' " she said. "It's not right."

BMrs. Skebeck said there are plans to introduce a similar checklist for third- through fifth-graders next school year, but to retain letter grades as well.

"As a purist, I don't like letter grades, but as a parent I understand the concern of parents," Mrs. Skebeck said.

"I believe letter grades tell [students] how they're doing with their peers," Dr. Keech added.

In other school news, the school system released its capital improvements program last week for 1994-1995.

School officials are seeking $28.8 million from the state and county governments, which would be used for 31 projects.

The program asks the state to contribute $6.6 million and the county to provide the remaining $22.2 million.

For the first time in several years, the request does not include construction money for a new school.

The county executive and County Council will consider the school system's capital request this spring.

The state has approved $727,000 for seven projects, including roofing repairs at Forest Hill and Bakerfield elementary schools and science room renovations at Joppatowne High School.

Dr. Keech will go before the Board of Public Works on Wednesday to request funding for the other projects, including a $1.84 million addition to C. Milton Wright High School.

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