Different strokes on year-round issue While Howard rejected concept, Anne Arundel is keeping it alive.

February 09, 1996

WHILE HOWARD County took little time dispatching with the year-round school issue, across the border in Anne Arundel the issue is still kicking. The Howard school board drove a stake through the idea of year-round schools so swiftly and surely that Sen. Christopher J. McCabe recently withdrew his bill calling for a voter referendum on the topic, which some people viewed as unnecessary piling on.

But in Anne Arundel, a task force is recommending that individual schools make the choice. Some supporters of the concept there, however, are unwisely lumping this issue with the repair of Van Bokkelen Elementary in Severn, the only suburban school on the state education department's "reconstitution" list. They are two wholly separate issues.

Without a doubt, a year-round calendar or even longer school days which would extend the calendar beyond the state-mandated 180 days ought to be considered for Van Bokkelen. Schools in similarly impoverished, transient communities, such as Robert W. Coleman Elementary in West Baltimore, have found that year-round schooling promotes stability and cuts down on "summer learning loss," especially with remedial students, who account for a disproportionately large percentage of the population at such schools.

That year-round schooling may help students in a poor, crisis-ridden community, however, is not a rationale for wholesale abandonment of the September-to-June schedule. In Anne Arundel, supporters have yet to allay the concerns that always dog this issue.

Have year-round schools been shown to improve student performance? No. Will they save money? On construction costs, maybe. But operating costs increase -- and all schools would nTC need air conditioning. Do the benefits justify the upheaval? Such a change would affect everything from the summer economy to child care to childrens' opportunities for summer camps and other out-of-school learning experiences. In West Baltimore, parents accepted the 12-month calendar, partly because vacations and other seasonal amenities are not an option for most families. In suburbia, the situation is different. A unique situation such as Van Bokkelen Elementary's should not be used to sell this still-unproven idea on a grand scale.

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