New Harford snow day policy for kindergarten irks teachers

February 04, 1994|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Sun Staff Writer

Harford County kindergarten teachers are furious over the school system's new snow policy designed to minimize the amount of time morning kindergarten students miss because of delayed openings.

The school system decided this week that morning kindergarten students would be expected to attend school even when the opening is delayed. In the past, morning kindergarten has been canceled when opening was delayed.

The policy was implemented because school officials were forced to cancel morning kindergarten for much of January. Last month, morning kindergartners went to school three days, compared with nine for their afternoon counterparts.

Under the new snow policy, when classes are delayed by two hours, morning kindergarten would start at 11 a.m. and end at 1 p.m., and afternoon kindergarten would be from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Regular kindergarten hours are 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Teachers are required to report to school 30 minutes before classes and stay 30 minutes after the last class ends.

What has upset many of the county's 80 kindergarten teachers is that in order to accommodate the delayed opening schedule, they will have to report to work at 10:30 a.m. and work straight through -- without a break -- until 4 p.m.

Jean R. Thomas, president of the teachers union, the Harford County Education Association, said she is "mad as hell."

"No teachers were consulted about the new policy. We have no say over the calendar, but by law the school system is suppose to talk to us about working conditions, and we were not informed of this change," Mrs. Thomas said. "This school system has declared war on teachers."

She said the school system expected kindergarten teachers to forfeit their contract-mandated 30-minute lunch break.

Donald R. Morrison, school spokesman, said the decision was made because of the unusually severe winter weather. Schools were closed nine days in January. Morning kindergarten students missed an additional seven days.

"This is an emergency situation. This is the only solution that will work because of the turnaround time needed to drop off the morning students and then pick up the afternoon students," he said.

Mr. Morrison said teachers would be able eat lunch from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

But Paulette Woodfork, a kindergarten teacher at Ring Factory Elementary in Bel Air, said that won't work.

"Students begin arriving at 10:30 in the morning. What are we suppose to do? Tell a bunch of 5-year-olds to leave us alone because we're eating?"

Pat White, who is also at Ring Factory, said the school system did not think through their decision.

"At this school we will have 80 5-year-olds coming into the classroom while another 80 are trying to leave," she said.

"This county pays lip service to teacher empowerment, but when the real nitty-gritty decision-making is done, teachers are ignored," Mrs. White said.

Mr. Morrison said the school system will work with each school to find ways to accommodate the teachers.

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