Year-round schools are considered Task force's findings need approval from Board of Education

Student on panel gives OK

Overcrowding is a problem officials hope will improve

February 06, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County could become the first school system in Maryland to approve year-round schools if the Board of Education agrees with a panel appointed by Superintendent Carol S. Parham.

The Anne Arundel County Task Force on Year-Round Education is to recommend tomorrow allowing individual schools to operate on a year-round schedule.

Jeanette Wessel, chairwoman of the 45-member committee, said members agreed on the recommendation after studying other year-round schools in other states.

"Our research showed it's been very successful," Ms. Wessel said. "We found communities liked it, families liked it, kids liked it, and teachers liked it."

Even the student on the committee, who was adamantly opposed to year-round schools when the study started, changed his mind.

"I feared losing our after-school activities, our after-school jobs, and our summer jobs," said Jeremy Schropp, a junior at South River High School in Edgewater. "And there was a big misconception that the [school] year would be lengthened."

The Schropp youth said he voted for the recommendation because officials allayed his fears about no vacation and no opportunities to earn money during the summer.

"They struck down the idea of going to school without a break," he said. "And if a majority of the students want summer break, they could vote to have that break to have the summer jobs."

Five jurisdictions in the state have studied and rejected year-round schools -- Allegany, Calvert, Frederick and Howard counties. In Baltimore, one elementary school is using a single-track year round calendar.

Joseph H. Foster, the Anne Arundel board's president has suggested that year-round calendars could help troubled schools such as Van Bokkelen elementary in Severn, which last month became the first suburban school in Maryland to be threatened with a state takeover because of a drop in already mediocre test scores.

The single-track system in use at the Baltimore elementary school is one of two types of year-round schedules. In it, students have evenly distributed blocks of school and vacation time stretched over 12 months.

In a multi-track system, students and teachers are arranged into groups with staggered school and vacation periods. While one group is on vacation, another group is in school.

The single track system helps teachers and students overcome the three-month lag between June and September, said task force member Tom Paolino.

"I saw what happened to the elementary school kids after a long summer -- the amount of material lost and the skills that were lost," said Mr. Paolino, a former sixth grade teacher who now teaches science at George Fox Middle School.

The multi-track helps overpopulated schools, said Laura Tayman, project manager for the task force.

"Some of the schools we heard from found that this was a better alternative because of overcrowding and because some parents didn't want to send their kids to a school far away," she said.

The committee also will recommend that the board allow schools and the communities they serve to decide whether to adopt year-round schooling.

"It has to be up to the communities," Mrs. Tayman said. "They must know how the calendar works, what would be the advantages about year-round education, and they must have a lot of input into the planning and the curriculum."

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