Earlier start a setback for many pupils Tardiness appears up after schools adopt longer daily schedule

'This is crazy now'

Problems are slight, most teachers say

learning gain doubted

November 25, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Whatever they were last year when school started at 7: 25 a.m., county high school students are more so now that it starts eight minutes earlier: more tardy, more disorganized, more tired.

"I received my first detention this year for being late. I was late four times," said Steven H. White Jr., the student member of the school board and a Meade High School senior.

The school board moved the starting time to 7: 17 a.m. this year to ensure that snow days wouldn't wreak havoc with the calendar, as happened last year. Thus, students will log almost 18 hours more than the state requires.

Many principals chose to put the bulk of the eight minutes into instruction. Over the course of a 180-day school year, one extra minute a day will add three hours of instruction in a single class.

"We are an instructional institution. Instruction is important," said Heather T. Millar, assistant principal at South River Senior High School. "It adds up to a lot of minutes over the school year."

However, not everyone is buying into this more-is-more concept.

"This is crazy now, starting at 7: 17. We had a parent conference at 6: 45, before school," said Harry Calender, Chesapeake Senior High principal.

And while they haven't compiled statistics yet, administrators at most of the county's high schools say more students are tardy this year than last.

"7: 17 is tough for high school kids," said Roy Skiles, principal at Northeast High School.

Hoping to pick up a few more precious minutes of sleep, more and more students are forsaking the yellow school bus in favor of driving or being driven to school. White figures he can get an extra 15 minutes in bed when he drives, leaving the house at 7 a.m. instead of catching the 6: 45 a.m. bus.

The Northeast High School newsletter is advising parents to drop students off earlier and avoid the traffic crunch.

"Duvall Highway backs up from parents driving kids," said Carolyn Roeding, who drives her daughter to Northeast. "It's a zoo sometimes."

Teachers report a mixed reaction to the longer day: Some say more students are tired and disorganized in first period, others say more students lose steam by the last period, but most say that, with only eight minutes at issue, they see no difference.

Opponents of the earlier start note that the additional minutes are not necessarily spent on instruction.

Some go to announcements, lunch and class changes, depending on the school.

Officials left it to each principal to decide what to do with those extra minutes.

Every high school applied at least one minute at the start of the day to announcements.

"This has nothing to do with instruction," said Roeding, the Northeast parent.

The state Department of Education counts only hours in school and not how they are spent.

"We don't have an instructional hour requirement in the state," said Ronald A. Peiffer, department spokesman. "From the state regulations, there is nothing to preclude the schools from using the time as they see appropriate."

Old Mill Senior High School added five minutes to seventh period and three to first period for announcements to "guarantee there are 50 instructional minutes a day in each class," said Principal Stan Stawas.

Other schools put the time toward getting students to class.

Glen Burnie and Arundel senior high schools are giving students six minutes instead of five between classes.

"We decided to see if it would make a difference in tardiness," said David Hill, principal of Glen Burnie's sprawling campus. "I'll take it away if I don't think it's doing any good."

Broadneck High School has a state waiver for the eight minutes because of bus complications, said Principal Linda Blackman. Broadneck students are housed this academic year in Severn River Junior High while their building is renovated.

"I do not feel that my students have been educationally deprived," said Broadneck teacher Virginia Crespo. But she has noticed one thing: Her daughters, who get up a few minutes earlier to get to Severna Park High School, are grumpier.

"Everybody is scrambling," said Severna Park High School Principal Mary Gable. "The first period class is probably not the class that participates the most."

Pub Date: 11/25/96

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