Fatigue aside, students, teachers favor school board's decision for longer day

May 16, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

If the busy life of a high school senior allowed it, Mara Comfort would take more naps.

"I find myself wanting more naps, I guess," said Mara, student government president at Francis Scott Key High School.

Her school day has been 50 minutes longer since March 21, as Carroll County schools try to make up for seven days lost to bad weather this winter. The school board voted in March to extend the day instead of the year, which would have meant going to school seven more days in June.

Friday, students in Carroll will resume their original schedules, after 42 school days of going in 20 minutes early and leaving 30 minutes late.

Fifth-grade teacher Isabella Litchka believes it has helped her catch up on lost time at Spring Garden Elementary School in Hampstead.

"I don't know whether the kids would agree, but I know that more learning has taken place," Ms. Litchka said.

"I think the day should be this long all year -- we can't get in everything we need to get in," she said, adding, "This is not going to be a popular position."

Ms. Litchka said the fatigue factor could just as easily be attributed to spring fever, lots of tests and the end of the year in sight. "Every year, we're this tired," she said.

Elementary education director Dorothy Mangle said she has heard other teachers and principals say the extended day has put them back on track educationally.

"The only thing we see now, and it's a cumulative effect, is the kids are tired and the teachers are tired," Ms. Mangle said. Still, she believes it was the right decision to lengthen the day instead of the year.

Allan Abbott, assistant principal at North Carroll High School, agreed. "Once they look at it and they realize they don't have those days at the end of the school year, they'll be glad," he said.

School will end for the summer on the originally scheduled day, June 17.

"All in all, it wasn't that bad," Mara said of the extended day. "It's definitely a better idea than extending the school year."

Melissa King, a freshman at North Carroll High School, said she got used to the longer day pretty quickly. "As soon as we get back to our normal schedule, it's going to be like a big burden lifted off of us," she said.

But Melissa said she doesn't feel as if she's learning more. Most of her classes use the extra time for students to do homework or "chill" before the bell rings.

But in her social studies class, she likes the extra time.

"We normally work right up to the last minute, and the extra time helps a lot. We get some more time to finish things off," she said.

Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary education, said that although teachers, principals and students say they are more tired, he has not seen work or attendance suffer.

Attendance was extraordinarily good the first few weeks of the new schedule.

"We had a couple of things surprise us early on," Mr. McDowell said. "Attendance just took off the first week. That has leveled off to where we usually are in a typical May."

Mr. McDowell acknowledged he would have expected attendance to drop, but attributed the rise to the kind of enthusiasm and novelty that accompanies the first week of school in September.

Also, he said, teachers embraced the change, and that attitude must have transferred to students.

Individual schools and teachers distributed the time differently, but most divided it between periods.

Ms. Litchka said she has found time for two activities that she often found herself putting off on rushed days. Social studies sometimes had to take a back seat to reading and writing, she said.

"Now I'm able to get it in every day," she said.

On days when she ran out of time, students did without the 10 to 15 minutes of Ms. Litchka reading aloud from a book. She now has time for that, too.

Aside from the unexpected rise in attendance, cafeterias are doing a brisk business, which also was a surprise.

"I've heard some people say they just think the kids are hungrier because they're in school longer," said Eulalia Muschik, food services director.

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