Students begin payback for snow days today

April 05, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Daylight-saving time started Sunday, but for Baltimore County public school students, the real spring forward comes today.

County school bells are ringing 30 minutes earlier for the next two months as students make up five of the days they lost to snow and ice over the winter. That means high school students will be starting classes between 7 a.m. and 7:15 a.m., with some magnet school students catching buses as early as 5:30 a.m.

Students will also be in class 15 minutes later each day, keeping some elementary school children in school until after 4 p.m.

Schools will be using their additional 45 minutes in different ways. At its last meeting, the school board decided to extend the day rather than the school year and approved the morning-afternoon split. "But what they do with the time is their business," said Superintendent Stuart Berger.

And what they're doing is a patchwork quilt of arrangements:

* At Kenwood High School, where the school day will run from 7:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the additional time will be split among the seven periods. Ten minutes will be added to the second and third periods, making them 55 minutes long, and five minutes will be added to each of the other five periods.

Second- and third-period classes lost the most time on days when schools opened late, so they get the extra time now, said Assistant Principal Jean Walker.

Although the school board indicated that it preferred tacking a full 45-minute period onto the end of the day, that option would not work at Kenwood, Ms. Walker said, because many work-study students must go to jobs by 12:30 p.m. and because some technology students split their days between Kenwood and Southeastern Technical Magnet.

"It's not the best solution, but it's the one that we felt was reasonable," she said.

* At Fort Garrison Elementary School, one of the latest-starting schools, classes will begin at 8:40 a.m. and run until 3:55 p.m. The school will open at 8:25 a.m. Special classes, such as art and music, will be five to seven minutes longer. Teachers will use the rest of the time as they see fit, building in some extra breaks and snack times if necessary, said Principal Lois Balcer.

"This is the best situation. This is the one [option] our faculty voted for," she said.

* The two countywide magnet high schools, Carver in Towson and Western in Catonsville, will be the earliest starters, at 7 a.m. They will close at 2 p.m., rather than 2:15 p.m., for a net gain of 10 minutes.

Here's why: These two schools have been starting classes at 7:15 a.m. all year -- 15 minutes earlier than other high schools. Had the extended day not been necessary, students at these two schools would simply have amassed more class time, said Western Principal Kenneth Burch. But now that the school system is counting minutes, these two schools were allowed to count their accrued time.

Both Carver and Western have to start earlier to accommodate bus schedules for other schools, but they can close earlier, Mr. Burch said.

Western students will probably win the early-riser award. Buses will be leaving Hereford High and Perry Hall High for Western at 5:30 a.m.

Rita Fromm, the school system's director of transportation, said adjusting the bus schedule has been simple -- everything just moves 30 minutes earlier. "There will be lots of early, early travel time," she said, "but it truly will be harder on the children and their families than on us."

Officials in the food and nutrition office are hoping that the early opening will be a boon to their breakfast business, which has not boomed in its first year.

"We are going to be reminding families that this might be a good program to take advantage of," with the children leaving home earlier than usual, said James Lipan, coordinator of the office of food and nutrition.

Only about 5,000 of the county's 96,000 students eat school breakfast daily, he said, though participation is high at some schools.

"We are sure hoping people will be taking advantage of breakfast. We could sure use it," said Mr. Lipan. "Winter wreaked havoc with our program."

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