County school day grows

March 23, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore County students, set your alarm clocks a half-hour earlier.

The school board last night voted to extend the school day by 45 minutes to make up for time lost to bad weather.

At its student member's suggestion, the board voted to split the extended day by starting school a half-hour earlier than usual and ending it 15 minutes later.

The decision means some high school students will be in class as early as 7:15 a.m., and they may be catching their buses as early as 5:45 a.m.

The extended day will take effect April 5 and continue through May 31 -- or longer if there are any more days lost to snow.

On the other hand, school will end on June 17 as originally scheduled. Extending the school year by five days until June 24 was the other major approach the board considered as it struggled with the aftermath of knockout winter storms that closed the schools for 12 days. The school system made up seven days by cutting holidays and spring vacation.

After an hour's debate, the board unanimously approved the split extended day plan. An earlier proposal from the teachers' union that would have resulted in an extended day of only 30 minutes died on a 5-5 vote.

The board's student member, Julia Grossman, opposed the 30-minute measure, saying, "Adding a half-hour to the day is four minutes to a period, and in high school, that's useless."

While Schools Superintendent Stuart Berger had proposed the extended day, Ms. Grossman, a senior at Loch Raven High, suggested that it be split, with the lion's share in the morning.

"I don't think you can put it all at the end," she said. At the board's last meeting she argued that a 45-minute extension at the end of the day would not be effective because students would ask to be excused for jobs and other scheduled activities.

Dr. Berger said he would have preferred to ask the State Board of Education to waive its 180-day requirement, but thought an extended day was the next best solution.

"In terms of school going on . . . I really think the 45 minutes does it better," he declared. He said he was "totally opposed" to the alternate plan offered by the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, which would have extended the school day by only 30 minutes but which would have converted four half-days scheduled for the steamy end of the year to full days.

"When it starts to get hot the week of June 13, I know exactly where the heat would be directed," Dr. Berger said.

TABCO President Ray Suarez said that, because the plan extends the length of the teachers' contractual day, he would have to discuss it with the school board. However, the State Board of Education's attorney has said the issue of the extended day is not subject to union negotiations.

Dr. Berger said he would make no recommendation to the board on whether to back an emergency bill passed overwhelmingly Monday by the House of Delegates that would allow local school boards to waive Maryland's 180-day requirement for this year only, without state approval. The bill is in the Senate.

State education officials are strongly opposed to waiving the 180-day requirement, and Gov. William Donald Schaefer has said he might veto the measure if it is enacted.

Two other counties have extended their school day for various periods during the spring to make up for snow closings -- Howard by 30 minutes from April 11 through May 6 and Carroll by 50 minutes from March 21 through April 29. Carroll is also splitting its extended day.

Baltimore City eliminated its President's Day holiday and extended the school year to June 17 from its scheduled closing date of June 8. Anne Arundel County shortened its students' spring vacation and extended school by three days to June 17.

Harford County shortened spring vacation, will extend school by one week until June 17 and ask the State Board of Education to waive one day.

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