Schools weigh how to spend snow makeup time

March 14, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

Some school days used to seem longer than others.

Starting March 21, they'll all be longer -- 50 minutes longer, to make up for time lost to bad weather.

Staff at each of Carroll County's five high schools, seven middle schools and 19 elementaries will be making a decision by this week about how to spend the extra 50 minutes a day.

Some schools had made their decisions by Friday, just two days after the Carroll County Board of Education and state schools superintendent approved a plan to make up the lost time with a longer day instead of a longer year.

At all schools, students will start class 20 minutes earlier than usual and end 30 minutes later. And with few exceptions, students will get on buses 20 minutes earlier in the morning and be dropped off 30 minutes later in the afternoon, said James Doolan, supervisor of transportation.

For the rare exceptions, he said, parents will be notified by the schools.

The only restriction Superintendent R. Edward Shilling gave schools was that the added time must be used for instruction.

"We're not talking about adding activity periods to the end of the day," he said.

Other than that, schools can decide how to use the extra time.

"What's going to work at Westminster High School is not going to work at North Carroll High School," Mr. Shilling said.

"My feeling is most of them are going to add time to each period," said Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education for Carroll schools.

He said complicated changes could be difficult to merge with schedules at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center and other outside activities.

"But I'm not going to suggest someone more creative than I isn't going to come up with something more workable," Mr. McDowell said.

Carroll public school students have missed 13 days because of bad weather this year. Three snow days had been built into the calendar, so students could meet the state requirement of 180 days in school and still get out by June 17.

Two snow days were made up by sacrificing two days from spring break. Students also attended classes on Presidents Day, and yet another day was made up by forfeiting a teacher training day last week.

With a longer school day from March 21 through April 29, the students will recover the hours from six missed days. The longer day could continue if there is more severe weather.

School will end for summer vacation by June 17, as originally planned. Without the longer day, students could have been in school as late as June 27.

The extended day provides a way to solve another problem -- the seven-day inequity between morning and afternoon kindergarten.

On seven days when schools started two hours late, morning kindergarten did not meet but the afternoon kindergarten sessions did.

With the extended day, morning kindergarten classes will last an additional 35 minutes, and the afternoon classes will run for an additional 15 minutes.

At Liberty High School, department heads decided to add 10 minutes to five of the academic periods.

"The two lunch-period classes are already longer," said Principal Robert Bastress.

The extra 10 minutes will be added to periods that were 45 minutes long.

Dr. Bastress said he and the staff wanted a method that would cause the least confusion.

"It could be a very complex situation in a high school. We need some normalcy, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

North Carroll High School has a unique schedule for Carroll high schools. Instead of seven 45-minute periods, students attend four 90-minute classes.

But staff there chose the same uncomplicated method that Liberty did. The school will add about 12 minutes to each of its four periods, said Assistant Principal Allan Abbott.

"Students and teachers have done such a good job of adjusting to the 90-minute periods. We haven't had anyone say, 'Oh my God, what am I going to do with 12 minutes more?' " Mr. Abbott said.

Jessica Steelberg, a senior at Westminster High School and student representative on the board, said she hoped principals would consider alternatives to just adding six or seven minutes to each class period. She would prefer that the time be rotated in larger chunks throughout the week, such as giving calculus an extra 30 minutes one day and science an extra 30 the next.

"It's not enough time to bring up a new topic," Miss Steelberg said of an extra seven minutes.

Dorothy Mangle, director of elementary education, said principals will be reporting to her next week what they and teachers have decided to do with the extra time.

It could be to add 10 minutes to each subject area, including specialties such as music and art, she said.

But it could also be to add a 50-minute period to the end of each day, devoted to the specialty areas, she said. For example, Monday could be for music, Tuesday for the media center, and so on.

Both those plans would address giving equal additional time to the specialty areas, more time to classroom teachers for planning and more instructional time overall to children, Mrs. Mangle said.

Miss Steelberg had came up with the plan of splitting the 50 minutes between the early and late part of the day.

Mr. Shilling said he had called her the previous week for ideas, and she expressed concern that adding 50 minutes to the end of the day would hurt students who work right after school.

Jessica said she and many other high school students already arrive at school by 7:30 a.m., about 20 minutes before classes start.

"For most students, it will only be a 10-minute difference," she said.

Mr. Shilling said he talked with leaders of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce and believes the business community will not penalize students who might have to go to part-time jobs a little later.

"If they need help from the school, it's OK to approach a principal and ask, 'Would you make a phone call?' " Mr. Shilling said.

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