Lost time lengthens 10 days of school Students to spend 50 minutes more daily for two weeks in April

March 14, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Carroll County students will spend an extra 50 minutes a day in school for two weeks, April 15-26, to make up time lost to snow and ice this winter.

The Carroll Board of Education was not obligated to make up the time, but members voted 3-0 yesterday to use the county's standards rather than the state minimum as the benchmark.

By county standards, the schools would have lost 46 hours at the elementary level and 52 hours at the secondary level.

"That's a lot of lost time, and it's difficult for me to say let's not worry about it," said Superintendent Brian Lockard.

Another concern has been that morning kindergarten students lost about 19 hours more than afternoon kindergarten students, because when school is delayed two hours, morning kindergarten doesn't meet.

The extra 50 minutes a day will be weighted toward the morning kindergarten to address that disparity, said Assistant Superintendent Gary Dunkleberger.

Each elementary will adjust its midday kindergarten dismissal and starting times accordingly, he said.

Normally, the state requires 180 days of school. The rules allow that to be converted to hours 1,080 for elementary and 1,170 for secondary schools.

Carroll schools normally have about 45 hours more than that by the end of a school year.

The state Board of Education waived two of the required 180 days this year because the January blizzard affected the entire state.

The state also allows schools to count hours, which helps districts like Carroll that have a slightly longer school day than necessary. Even without the waiver, Carroll would have been only one hour short of the state minimum for elementary and seven hours short of the high school minimum.

Dr. Dunkleberger said he surveyed five groups parents, teachers, principals, supervisors and students. He presented four options, with plans ranging from 25 minutes a day to 70 minutes a day. The most popular option was 50 minutes for 10 days.

Board member Ann Ballard said several parents have called her to object to extended hours and said they still would pick up their children at normal dismissal times.

Ms. Ballard asked whether holding school on Easter Monday, now a holiday, would be better, requiring only five days of extended hours.

However, she backed off the idea when school administrators told her it was a paid holiday in at least two employee contracts and would lead to paying overtime.

Also, many parents have planned vacations, and the schools would be likely to have low attendance that day, they said.

Cheryl A. McFalls, a parent, said she felt the extended day two years ago was difficult for children, but that was for 42 days.

"To extend it for only 10 days sounds like a joy" in comparison, she said. She also urged the board not to hold school Easter Monday, saying it was an important holiday for many Christians.

Two parents at the meeting did not agree with the extension, saying it made the day too long for children.

"What is the real value of 50 minutes added to the school day?" asked Eldersburg resident Charlie Scruggs.

Dr. Lockard said he would leave it to school principals to decide how to use the time, as he did two years ago.

Dr. Dunkleberger said that in 1994, two years ago, elementary schools used the extra hours to improve scores on the Maryland School Performance and Assessment tests, and schools saw the biggest increase ever in performance.

Kim O'Donnell, a Westminster mother, said the long days were very tiring for her children when the board lengthened the days did this two years ago.

"Why can't we just extend the school calendar?" Ms. O'Donnell said. "We used to do that years ago."

But adding days to the end of the year was tremendously unpopular among parents, teachers and students.

Dr. Dunkleberger said surveys showed that 99 percent of staff members and 76 percent of parents favored extended hours to an extended year.

Pub Date: 3/14/96

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