Year-round study irks PTA council

September 23, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

The Howard County PTA Council expressed its concerns over the school board's handling of a study of year-round education at yesterday's school board meeting.

Jerry Bialecki, representing the PTA Council, told the board that holding meetings of the study committee during regular business hours prevented working parents from participating.

Reading from a statement prepared by the PTA Council's executive board, Mr. Bialecki brought up other concerns.

The public does not understand why the school system is looking at year-round education and how it "may adversely affect the monetary support from local and state governments as far as funding of the capital budget," he read.

The concerns come as the county has started work on designing a year-round education plan to see whether it could work in Howard, raise student achievement and save operating and school construction costs.

At the meeting, school officials said they have not decided whether to go ahead with year-round education. They said they are only trying to develop the best possible plan in case budgetary problems force them to look at alternative ways to find seats for the county's fast-growing student population.

"Year-round education is strictly fallback in case we don't get the funding we need" to build schools, Associate Superintendent Maurice Kalin said.

"The jury is still out as far as I'm concerned" on whether Howard would ever switch to year-round education, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said.

Board members, saying the public perceives that they favor year-round education, asked that parents give the study of year-round education a chance.

"I would like [to] plead for academic freedom," board member Sandra French said. "I would like to have this community pull together in true academic pursuit of an idea and try it on paper first."

Also at the board meeting:

* Dr. Hickey presented to the board his proposed $48.7 million capital budget for next fiscal year. The proposal would fund 13 projects, including the building of additions to elementary and middle schools as an alternative to more expensive school construction. Enrollment is expected to grow by 12,500 students in the next decade, 35 percent more than this year's 36,000 students.

* The board heard a report that evaluated the four-period programs that were implemented last school year at Atholton and Howard high schools.

Attendance for the most part improved at both schools.

Enrollment in advanced placement classes increased at both schools, although the number of students taking the tests to gain college credits decreased at Atholton, from 104 students in the 1992-1993 year to 70 students in the 1993-1994 school year.

The number of students taking the tests at Howard also decreased, from 59 students in the 1992-1993 year to 34 in the 1993-1994 school year.

VTC

But the percentage of students who passed the tests increased, from 78.8 percent in the 1992-1993 year to 92.9 percent in the 1993-1994 year at Atholton and from 59.3 percent in the 1992-1993 year to 82.4 percent in the 1993-1994 year at Howard.

Atholton's mean grade point average decreased one-tenth of a point, to 2.7, while Howard's rose one-tenth of a point, to 2.7.

It is still too early to judge the effect of a schedule change on students' performance on the Scholastic Assessment Test, the report said.

"Although it was difficult, it does appear to be a positive change," Phyllis Utterback, testing supervisor, said of the four-period program.

"I would recommend that staff members continue to be supportive" as schools continue to change to alternative schedules.

But Jessica Brause, the board's student associate who attends Atholton, said the four-period day has caused many scheduling problems for students. She also said students who want to take higher-level classes often cannot because the classes are scheduled fewer times.

"I had to change my schedule so many times because it's very hard to fit your classes all in," she said.

* Two parents urged the Board of Education to approve the 15-acre site to build a northern elementary school on Route 99 near Patapsco Middle School.

"Any delays in approving, or possibly finding, another site would delay construction and thus relief to the northern district schools that definitely need it," said Valerie Linaburg, PTA president at St. John's Lane Elementary School.

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