Students grumble as classes continue Teachers at full pace to make up for days lost during winter

June 17, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

For Howard County students, this is the week that Mother Nature wrought.

A winter of playing in the snow -- including a week off during Maryland's "storm of the century" in January -- has come back to haunt pupils, who are in class until Wednesday, making up six days lost to the weather.

They were supposed to have been out for the summer last Tuesday.

"It's June, and the teachers are still working us hard," said Dunloggin Middle School seventh-grader Sandy Palacorolla, 12, on a sunny day last week. "It's not fair."

Said Mayfield Woods Middle School eighth-grader Matt Small, 14: "Who wants to keep working when everyone else is out of school?"

Such complaints are music to the ears of Howard County school board members, who have publicly urged teachers to keep up instruction until the last day of school.

"They're complaining, because they're working too hard during the last days? I love it," said Susan Cook, the board's chairwoman.

By the time Howard students finish classes Wednesday, almost all their peers from neighboring counties will be well into summer break.

The last day of school for students in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties was Friday, and Carroll County pupils completed classes June 6.

Baltimore City schools have their last day Thursday.

The struggle over how to make up days lost to bad weather is one that school systems must face each year, because state law requires 180 days of school attendance. Because of this winter's severe weather -- which was worse than the ice storms of 1994 -- the state Board of Education waived two of those days.

Almost every school system this year lost more than a week of school to the weather, but each came up with a different way to make up the time.

In Carroll, students spent an extra 50 minutes a day in school for two weeks in April, while Baltimore County pupils had to spend their Memorial Day holiday in class to make up for lost time.

In addition to the six days added to the end of the school year, Howard students also attended classes on Presidents Day and on a teacher-training day to make up eight of the 10 days canceled by bad weather.

While little was said about the decision to use the Presidents Day holiday, it was easy last week to find students complaining ** about the warm June days spent in class, even though all Howard's schools are air-conditioned.

"They should have just lengthened the school days," said Clarksville Middle School eighth-grader Brandon Lauer, 14. "It's really hard to go to school when friends everywhere else are already out."

Trouble concentrating

Even teachers recognize that students are having trouble concentrating.

"There's a certain psychology we have that when we get to June -- the school year should be over," said Pat Greenwald, Clarksville Middle's gifted-and-talented program teacher.

"It's tough to break through that and get a lot done."

Of course, not every minute during the last week of school is being spent on instruction. While high school students are taking final exams, many elementary and middle schools plan end-of-the-year athletic competitions, awards ceremonies and parties to keep pupils enthusiastic about classes.

So far, attendance remains high throughout the county, although many schools report at least a few students who have left for summer vacations.

Those who are in school don't like losing a week of vacation. "We're getting out of school so late that it's going to be a really short summer," said Oakland Mills Middle School seventh-grader Kara Curry, 12. "I don't like it."

Unusual weather

Will this year's extended calendar be repeated soon? County educators don't seem to think so.

During the planning for next year's school calendar, school officials who have studied past weather records insisted that this winter was an anomaly.

For the 1996-1997 year, the school board planned only four makeup days -- Presidents Day and June 11, 12 and 13. Board members had considered designating spring break as potential snow makeup days, but decided against it after considering the number of complaints they would be sure to receive.

Most teachers say they don't mind the extra days; they savor the chance to finish material that otherwise would have had to be trimmed from the curriculum.

But many also wish that temperatures were cooler, because the air conditioning in some schools doesn't always work well.

"I'm glad we have the time to get everything in," said Rosemary Demming, a special education teacher at Dunloggin. "But I just wish the man upstairs would help us out and make things a little cooler."

Pub Date: 6/17/96

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