Shh! School opening moved to Aug.

May 26, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Sun Staff Writer

Breaking quietly with tradition, the Baltimore County school board has finally arranged for school to start before Labor Day in 1995, a proposal that in previous years has evoked enough criticism to do it in.

Baltimore County students will start the 1995-1996 school year Aug. 28, a week before the holiday that has traditionally marked the beginning of school. The board voted 8-1 Tuesday night for the calendar recommended by Superintendent Stuart Berger's staff.

The new calendar closes schools on the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and includes a 10-day spring break early in April, as well as two professional days for teachers. Schools will close June 7, 1996.

The 182 student days in the calendar allow only two days for weather closings -- far fewer than the actual number over the last few winters. Maryland law requires 180 days of school. Additional snow days will be added to the end of the year, officials said.

Although the board has spent hours discussing calendar possibilities at previous meetings, this week's discussion lasted only 15 minutes.

"This is absolutely amazing," said board President Alan Leberknight after the vote. "No one even mentioned Labor Day."

"Shh," urged several of his colleagues, fearful that a mention of the holiday would draw critics.

The board had tried twice previously -- for this school year and next -- to open school before Labor Day. But parents, teachers, Maryland State Fair officials and others persuaded them otherwise.

This year's late post-Labor Day start made it difficult to deal with an unusually rough winter, which closed schools for 12 days. Rather than extend school late into June, officials canceled spring break and lengthened the school day for two months to make up the time.

At one point this year, the board was working on three years' calendars -- amending the one for the current year, reviewing next year's and creating the 1995-1996 schedule.

"We've had our fill," said Deputy Superintendent Anthony Marchione. "I think they are tired of talking about calendars."

The board turned down a 1995-1996 calendar proposal from a committee of parents, teachers and administrators that would also have started before Labor Day but would have ended classes May 31, thanks to a shorter spring break.

The board also approved a new middle school report card that will be used in the fall.

Students will still get traditional letter grades in English, mathematics, science and social studies but each school will decide whether it wants to give traditional grades or alternative marks, such as "pass/fail," in foreign languages, art, music, physical education and electives.

The new report cards also include 11 performance standards on which all students will be rated by each teacher.

In response to board members' concerns, the report card committee decided to require a parent's signature and provided a form for it.

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