Snow makeup may mean longer school days

March 08, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Patrick Gilbert, Gary Gately and Sherry Joe contributed to this article.

Baltimore-area students may learn firsthand what it means for the days to grow longer in spring -- as much as 45 minutes longer from bell to bell.

The Baltimore County school board tonight will consider a proposal to extend the school day by 45 minutes for 40 days, instead of extending the school year by five full days to make up the class time lost to ice and snow this winter.

School boards in Carroll and Howard counties will consider extended days and other proposals tomorrow, as officials wrestle with the fallout from the most severe winter that most can remember.

The extended-day plan from Baltimore County Superintendent Stuart Berger's staff is expected to raise many questions, including its impact on a variety of after-school activities, including sports, students' jobs, day care for teachers' children and religious school classes.

If the Baltimore County school board accepts the plan, it will still require approval by the state school superintendent and the agreement of the teachers union. The meeting is scheduled for 8 tonight at school headquarters on Charles Street.

The Maryland State Board of Education approved an extended day for Washington County schools last week and authorized state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick to approve similar plans from other counties without waiting for the full board to meet, said Ron Peiffer, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education.

"The state board was very excited. They thought the added time might be more quality time than three or four days in the middle of June," he said.

After receiving a memo about the Washington County plan, Baltimore County officials began to develop their own.

"We will be proposing that we extend the school day by 45 minutes from April 5 through May 31," said Deputy Superintendent Anthony Marchione.

"Based on what we've heard up until now, it's preferable" to the original plan, which would have added June 20 through 24 to school calendar, he added.

Baltimore County students have missed 12 days of school because of the weather. The calendar allowed for only two snow days. One day has already been made up, and four more will be recovered during what otherwise would have been spring break, March 28 to 31.

Although the extended day would get county youngsters out of school on June 17, there are drawbacks.

Some elementary pupils would be in school until 4:35 p.m. and then on a bus for as much as an hour after that. After-school activities would be interrupted, including Hebrew school for many Jewish youngsters.

Board member Sanford V. Teplitzky, who is also president of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said he was concerned about the effect on religious classes but that he had also heard from many parents who want an alternative to a school year that extends late into June.

"It would certainly make the transition to religious school more difficult because kids wouldn't have as much unwinding time, and it would obviously make learning more difficult," said Rabbi Stuart Seltzer, religious school director at Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Stevenson.

Ray Suarez, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said he would bring several concerns about a longer school day before the board tonight. Among them are contractual issues caused by teachers working a longer day and the day care problems arising from late closings.

But Robert J. Kemmery, principal of Eastern Technical High School in Essex, said the 45-minute extension is a workable proposal.

"One of the options I am leaning toward is to double a different class each day, since we are working on a seven-period day," said Mr. Kemmery.

Raymond L. McColgan, principal of General John Stricker Middle School in Dundalk, said he, too, is not opposed to an alternative to adding days to the end of the school year. But he added that the burden would fall most heavily on teachers.

Both principals said they have not discussed the proposal with their faculties and would seek their opinions before deciding how to deal with the extra time, should it be approved by the school board.

Other jurisdictions are also looking at longer days.

In Howard County, the school board will meet tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at Hammond High School to decide how to make up time lost to snow closings. Chairman Dana F. Hanna said the board will consider extending the school day by at least 20 minutes.

Howard schools have lost 11 days to the weather this year. Three snow days were built into the original schedule, and officials added another six to that calendar, making the last day of school June 17 instead of June 9. But officials are debating how to make up two days lost last week.

In Carroll County, the school board will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the Courthouse Annex in Westminster to consider similar options.

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said last week that he might recommend an extended day, but would have to consider its impact on students, school employees, bus contractors and finances.

Carroll schools have been closed for 13 days because of snow. Unless the school board decides to lengthen the school day or asks the state for a waiver of its 180-day requirement, the school year will be extended to June 27 to make up the time.

In Baltimore City, Harford and Anne Arundel counties, officials have shortened vacations and extended the school year but have not considered a longer school day.

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