Report finds longer days disrupt school schedule

August 25, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Tired teachers and students were the most common problem when Howard County schools opened an additional 30 minutes for four weeks last school year, according to a report scheduled to be presented at today's school board meeting.

Weather and icy conditions this past winter led school officials to extend the school day for a month to make up for two snow days.

At the elementary school level, where schools used the additional time on language arts, social studies, math or science, families and teachers complained about disruptions to after-school activities and day-care services. School administrators also couldn't hold after-school meetings because of the lengthened day.

At the middle school level, there were problems with limited time for teacher meetings and parent conferences, and high school faculty meetings also were severely shortened.

But the report also said that middle schools were able to provide more time for instruction and other subjects, and high schools were able to give one-on-one help and remedial help for students.

Among other items on the agenda for today's meeting, the board will:

* Decide whether to approve the new family life and human sexuality curriculum for high school students who now must take a half-credit course in health to graduate. Before the change starting this year, students only had to pass a quarter-credit, nine-week class.

The semester-long class lets school officials add seven topics that were suggested and requested by parents and students. The additional topics include abstinence, decision-making and their consequences, healthy relationships and dating.

The message of abstinence and the teaching of skills to help teens "resist the pressure to engage in risk behavior" will be emphasized, according to a report by Mamie Perkins, health education supervisor.

* Hear changes in the annual process of setting school calendars. Instead of having a school calendar committee recommend holiday closings and early dismissals, which has been the practice for 20 years, board members will look at various calendar options and decide.

"What it's going to require is to make sure we get the appropriate input from all the groups I've been hearing recently," said Robert Lazarewicz, director of operations.

Parents have called him about the number of early dismissals, he said, and staff members have contacted him about more opportunities to schedule staff development.

Under a proposed time-line, parents and groups would be able to make suggestions in September about the school calendar. School officials would develop options by December, when they present school calendar variations to the school board.

Board members would conduct a public hearing in January and approve a calendar each February for the next school year in February.

* Receive reports on changes in the elementary school gifted and talented program. A committee studying the program recommends that students no longer require an in-depth identification process, but enter the program through recommendations from parents, teachers and administrators.

Teachers of the gifted and talented would spend at least eight hours a week helping students do independent research projects. Those teachers also would work more closely with classroom teachers to strengthen curriculum.

The Board of Education meets today at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Department of Education, 10910 Route 108 in Ellicott City. Information: 313-6682.

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