Officials consider extending school day Adding 12 minutes would help solve snow-closing woes

March 10, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

With an extra 12 minutes, you can poach four eggs, run more than a mile or watch half a television sitcom, or you could add the equivalent of six days to the school year.

Anne Arundel County school officials are studying the costs and logistics of lengthening the school day by 12 minutes, at least for high school students and maybe for all 72,000 students, to avoid a recurrence of the problem they have this year.

Because of snow-related delayed arrivals, early dismissals and full days lost, high school students will be short of the state-required 1,170 instructional hours if this school year is not extended. The last day of school was to be June 11 but probably will be June 14.

The scheduling issue, along with cost analyses. is likely to be presented to the school board at its March 20 meeting.

"The money is a big thing," said Robert C. Leib, director of business services.

"If we do it for the high schools alone that 12 minutes is going to cost us anywhere from $1,500 to $1,800 a day. That's $324,000 a year," he said.

Last month, the school board submitted to County Executive John G. Gary its budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts July 1. He said it was too high.

But money isn't the only issue involved in extending the school day.

Contractually, teachers are entitled to 350 minutes a week of planning time during their 35 1/2 hours a week at school. If the change prevented teachers from getting that time, their contract would have to be reopened, said John Kurpjuweit, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County.

Another issue is the early start of the school day, now 7: 25 a.m. for high school students.

With an even earlier start, "I don't know how attentive students are going to be in class," said Nicole St. Pierre, the student member of the school board.

"Probably, the best solution would be to add time in the afternoon. Many students are not awake that early, mentally anyway, if not physically," she said.

The timing could be crucial for parents who have tightly scheduled workdays, said Rita Lowman, president of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs.

It also could create a bus scheduling nightmare if the high school day were lengthened while elementary and middle school days were unchanged, Mr. Leib said.

Contractors operate buses in shifts, dropping off high school students early, then making a second run for elementary students, whose classes start later, he said.

"If we extend the school day for all the schools -- elementary, middle and high school -- there is no additional cost," Mr. Leib said.

Ronald A. Peiffer, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, sees some advantage in longer days. High school students would have spent more time in classes by the time they took college placement exams in the spring, he said.

"In many ways, it is probably more valuable for kids to have their longer days before their AP [advanced placement] exams and other exams," he said. "It is not just a matter of counting beans here. We have to make sure we have students prepared for these things."

Donald Smith, administrator of the Association of Educational Leaders, the county principals union, said the idea "has a lot of merit."

Principals' schedules would not be affected, he said, because their contract requires them to work as needed.

The unions have not taken up the matter.

Pub Date: 3/09/96

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