2 counties OK longer school day

March 10, 1994|By Anne Haddad and Mary Maushard | Anne Haddad and Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writers David Michael Ettlin and Lan Nguyen contributed to this article.

An article in yesterday's edition reported incorrectly the date when Howard County schools will close in June. Schools will close June 17. Also, the name of Hammond High School student Brandi Dickman was misspelled.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Under pressure to make up for bad-weather closings, two area school boards voted yesterday to lengthen the school day rather than the school year.

Carroll and Howard counties will become the first in the Baltimore area to take such a step if they receive the approval of the state school superintendent.


But where Carroll's longer school day would allow the year to end as originally scheduled, Howard's would be part of a package of changes that includes six extra days in June.

Four other Maryland counties have won state approval of plans to lengthen the school day, and others -- including Baltimore County -- are considering such a plan.

At its Feb. 22 meeting, the board considered using the day for classes. But Superintendent Stuart Berger objected. He said that staff development was important and that many principals and teachers had long-standing arrangements for speakers, classes and conferences.

The program in at least one school included line dancing for stress reduction -- bringing camera crews from several television stations that showed the scene on newscasts last night.

Under the Carroll County plan, the school day would begin 20 minutes earlier and end 30 minutes later, beginning March 21.

The good news in Carroll is that the school year would end June 17, the original date.

Without the longer day, the schools could have been making up time through June 27.

Howard's school year had been scheduled to end June 9. But the Howard school board voted earlier to add six days to the calendar -- running classes through June 18.

The system has lost 11 days to bad weather this winter, three of them built into the calendar. The extension left two days to be made up, and the board addressed that problem last night by voting to eliminate the Easter Monday holiday of April 4 and to add a half-hour to the end of the school day for a two-week period beginning April 11.

Howard board members had considered opening on Memorial Day, but worried about a conflict with an East Coast soccer tournament on school fields in which many local students would be participating.

"The reality is, if the kids aren't there, what have we accomplished rather than created a calendar that just hangs on the wall," said Dana Hanna, the board chairman.

They also considered adding another 30 minutes at the start of the school day. Brandi Bickman, a senior at Hammond High School in Columbia, was glad that option was rejected. "Starting school at 7 [a.m.] is ridiculous," she said.

Those supporting the Carroll plan say students are more likely to benefit from the longer day than from an extra week or two tacked on the end of the school year, when children often leave for camp or family vacations and the remaining students suffer in the heat. Half of Carroll's schools lack air conditioning.

"The quality of instruction in March, April, May and early June will be much better than the quality of instruction in the third or fourth week of June," said Carroll Superintendent R. Edward Shilling.

Baltimore County's board delayed action Tuesday on a proposal to extend the school day by 45 minutes from April 5 through May 31. Board Vice President Calvin Disney asked for the delay to give the process "some reasonableness so that people don't feel they've been ignored."

Administrators will hear public reaction at a hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Ruxton School, 6916 N. Charles St.

Deputy Superintendent Anthony Marchione asked yesterday that suggestions be sent to him, in writing, before the hearing, in care of Baltimore County Public Schools, 6901 N. Charles St., Towson 21204.

The option for a longer day gained favor after Washington County received state permission last week to lengthen school days. State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick subsequently approved longer days for schools in Queen Anne's, Frederick and Montgomery counties.

Baltimore County students have missed 12 days because of bad weather. There were two extra days in the calendar and one day ... TC has been made up. Four more days will be recovered in what was to have been spring break, March 28 to 31.

Dr. Berger and his staff said they think the longer day is preferable to a longer school year. Some board members agreed Tuesday night, but student member Julia Grossman said she feared the extra 45 minutes would be useless because many pupils would have to be excused because of previous plans.

Ray Suarez, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said that an informal poll indicated that teachers preferred the five extra days in June.

But Cynthia Cummings, president of the Carroll teachers union, backed her county's plan. "We feel it is much better to have this time now instead of at the end of the year, for attendance reasons and for attention reasons," Mrs. Cummings said.

Jessica Steelberg, a senior at Westminster High School and student representative to the Carroll school board, proposed splitting the system's 50 extra minutes between morning and afternoon.

Superintendent Shilling said she expressed concern that adding 50 minutes to the end of the day would hurt students who work right after school. Jessica said many high school students get to school about 20 minutes before classes.

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