Cal-i-fornia, Here We Come?

November 21, 1994

Through the wonders of modern technology, a group of Anne Arundel County students recently questioned students at a Los Angeles high school about their experiences with year-round schooling.

The link was an interesting way to introduce county students to video teleconferencing, but it did not change our minds about the folly of year-round schools.

The Anne Arundel students were concerned about how going to school year-round would affect their social lives. The system the Los Angeles school officials have devised to accommodate students' extracurricular activities would appear to be an administrative nightmare. Students who miss class for outside activities make up the time by attending other class sessions during their vacations. Teachers presumably would have to keep track of which students are supposed to be in class and which students are on vacation.

The notion that the Los Angeles' experience could somehow be translated to Maryland is a dubious one to start with. Los Angeles and Anne Arundel County are entirely different. L.A. may have earthquakes and mudslides, but it rarely has the sweltering summer days of this region. Air-conditioned schools are nice in Los Angeles, but not essential for year-round schools.

The West Coast's temperate climate points to another difference: Californians need not worry about family summer vacations; they can comb the beach in January if they want.

Anne Arundel schools' Year Round Task Force has started meeting to explore the possibility of requiring students to go to school year-round. Proponents argue that year-round schools would save on school construction and would be better for the students. But the cost of increasing teachers' salaries and installing air conditioning in the schools must be weighed against construction savings. As for the presumed educational benefits, the county would only be juggling the calendar, not increasing the amount of time students attend school.

We fear that year-round schools is a passing fad. While Gov. William Donald Schaefer has been a strong supporter of the idea -- his administration tapped Anne Arundel as one of six jurisdictions to study the calendar change -- Governor-elect Parris Glendening is not so impressed. Prolonged study on the issue seems a waste of time and money.

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