Parents must give schools instructions for emergency closings

May 05, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Parents of all Anne Arundel County public school students can expect to have another form to fill out for the next school year, one to tell the school system what to do with children in case of emergency dismissals.

An 11-member committee was formed last fall to review the dismissal procedure after parents complained on the second day of school that they were left in the dark when schools closed early due to the heat. Only half of the county's schools are air-conditioned.

The committee also suggested the installation of a toll-free telephone number with a recorded message advising parents of emergency early closings. School officials said they did not know the cost of establishing and operating such a line.

"I think this is a great idea. It should have happened a long time ago," said Desira St. Pierre, the student representative on the eight-member board.

In addition to the traditional snow days, schools can be closed because of heat, power failures, chemical spills and other potential emergencies such as the tornado that ripped through Severna Park last year. All schools were given weather radios as a result of that sudden storm.

Parents will be asked to complete an "early/emergency school dismissal plan" describing what their children should do in case of emergency closings. The school will keep the plan on file.

General emergency-closing information would go to radio and TV stations that cover the region in hopes they would announce it.

Richard Berzinski, principal of Quarterfield Elementary School and head of the committee, said the toll-free telephone line is needed because broadcast signals cannot be received in the National Security Agency and similar offices.

Originally, the group wanted to restrict the forms to elementary pupils, but school board members said they thought it would be important for older students as well.

Some individual schools have emergency plans, but this is the school system's first effort at standardization.

"Ideally, we would certainly like to have it in place by September," said school Superintendent Carol S. Parham.

The group has to iron out several details, such as what weather service would be used and how to make sure parents return the completed form.

Mr. Berzinski said the group will return to the board for approval of the completed plan before the end of this school year.

In other matters, Dennis Younger, executive director for curriculum, told the board that a pilot elective course, Preparing for the PSAT/SAT and Beyond, will be available in all 12 high schools this fall.

Dr. Younger said the one-semester class was shown to boost scores on the new Scholastic Assessment Test. He said the copyrighted course, designed to be taken after students have completed geometry, is expected to be popular with 11th- and 12th-graders who plan to go to college.

Also yesterday, board members asked for revisions to the proposed policy to ban employee-student dating to clarify several points.

The draft included all students up to age 21 and all employees and volunteers, even night-school students. But adult education students may be dropped, student volunteers may not be counted as volunteers, and the proposal may be rewritten to preclude all social relationships that could affect grading.

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