Study sought for all-year school idea Board is intrigued by recommendation but wants more data

'You can't sit on the fence'

Task force suggests that members should 'give them a chance'

February 08, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Year-round schools won't come to Anne Arundel County any time soon.

School board members appeared intrigued yesterday by the idea but said they need more information than they got from a task force that recommended consideration of a pilot program.

"I believe that we need a lot more study and I believe we need to talk to a lot more people about this," said board member Carlesa Finney.

Any year-round program would take at least two years to plan and would have to be embraced by the schools affected, administrators said.

"There are a lot of factors that people have to buy into in this process for it to get off the ground," said board member Michael McNelly.

The school board did not take a vote, but the issue will come up next month for more discussion and a vote on whether to pursue it.

Esther Parker, a parent on the task force, said she wants some direction from the board.

"One way or the other, as a parent and as a taxpayer, I want to know," she said. "You have got to make a decision. You can't sit on the fence."

After studying year-round schools in other states, the 45-member panel appointed by school Superintendent Carol S. Parham recommended that individual schools be allowed to operate year round. "What we tried to do in this final report to you was to say it is up to the community, but you have to give them a chance," said Laura Tayman, a task force member.

Advocates say year-round schooling can alleviate crowding and boost academic performance by students who wouldn't have all summer to forget the previous year's work. But several board members wondered what extra costs, such as installing air conditioning, would be involved.

Board President Joseph H. Foster has suggested that a year-round schedule be considered for Van Bokkelen Elementary, the first suburban school threatened with a state takeover because its already mediocre test scores dropped even further last year.

Mary Alice Gehrdes, a task force member, said she was not convinced that public education would improve simply by starting year-round schooling. She said she worried about disruption a calendar change would bring.

Carolyn Roeding, former countywide PTA president, said parents who "wanted to opt out if their school was a test school for year-round classes" would have no place to send their children.

"What if there is a crowding situation in an adjacent school?" she said. "There really is a lot of debate on whether this is a good idea."

The countywide student council rejected the idea in a recent vote.

Five counties have studied and rejected year-round schools -- Allegany, Calvert, Frederick, Montgomery and Howard.

In Baltimore City, an elementary school is using a single-track year-round calendar.

That system 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 multitrack system, students are arranged in groups with staggered school and vacation periods. While one group is on vacation, another is in school.

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