Earlier school start is a bitter pill for some

April 06, 1994|By Ed Brandt and Glenn Small | Ed Brandt and Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writers

A quarter moon was glowing, and there was an hour and 15 minutes left until sunrise when Eve Deinlein arrived at Perry Hall High School with her daughter, Melissa, and a friend, Belinda Weltz.

At 5:30 a.m., a school bus with Edward Smith behind the wheel trundled into the driveway to pick up the two girls, who were still mourning the early hour.

"I hate this," said Melissa.

"This is ridiculous," said Mrs. Deinlein.

All things considered, it was a no-smile morning for Baltimore County's 95,000 students, who began their exertions a half-hour early yesterday as the school system put into motion its plan to make up for five school days lost to Maryland's bitter winter.

Through May 31, schools will stay open 45 minutes longer than normal, starting 30 minutes earlier and ending 15 minutes later. For Melissa and Belinda, the system's earliest bus riders, the 30 minutes in the morning were the worst.

"That was a half-hour of sleep," Melissa said glumly.

"It was just a little too early," Belinda said. "I just laid there."

Both are 14 and ninth graders at Western School of Technology and Environmental Sciences in Catonsville, a magnet program that attracts students from around the county.

Ahead was an hour-plus bus ride, during which Mr. Smith would pick up students at Overlea, Kenwood and Patapsco high schools and deposit them at Western, which starts classes at 7 a.m. to accommodate bus schedules at other schools.

It was routine for Mr. Smith, a school bus driver for 27 years.

"A half-hour didn't make much difference to me," he said, "except I had to miss half the Duke-Arkansas basketball game."

At the other end of the day was Fort Garrison Elementary school in Stevenson, which didn't dismiss its students until 3:55 p.m.

Several parents and a baby-sitter waiting to pick up children said the extended school day made little difference to elementary school youngsters.

"It's actually more convenient for me," said Jill Levien, a baby-sitter waiting to pick up two elementary school children.

"I have a job during the day. I can leave later."

"I don't think it affects the elementary children too much," said Susan Grilli, while waiting for her 5-year-old daughter, who is in kindergarten. "But I do think it affects the middle and high school students."

She noted that her 11-year-old son had to get up at 6:15 to be at his desk at Pikesville Middle by 7:25.

"My son did it," she said. But she quickly added, "This is the first day."

Lois Balcer, principal of Fort Garrison, reported no problems with late students or other mix-ups.

"It's fine," she said. "As a matter of fact, the teachers are enjoying the extra time."

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