Teachers say days with late start help In elementary schools, they have time for peer contact, planning

December 02, 1997|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Carroll elementary teachers say the new practice of delaying the start of school six days a year has given them a chance to do things other professionals might take for granted -- such as meet with colleagues, make plans or even make phone calls.

The next late-start day is Monday,when elementary schools will open two hours late.

That means two hours less of instruction, but the philosophy is that it will improve the quality of the remaining time, advocates say.

For years, elementary teachers have been asking the school board for more planning time, and the board and administration have been trying to find a way to provide at least as much as secondary school teachers get.

"As far as I can remember, equity in planning time has been an issue," said Mark Vigliotti, an elementary school supervisor and former principal in Carroll County.

"The bottom line is, this allows teachers to use their time to improve instruction," he said.

This year, the system is trying a new plan in which elementary students start two hours late six times a year. In addition, students in all grades leave school early twice this year -- Oct. 23 and March 26 -- to give teachers time for grading, planning or training.

It's up to each school to decide how to use the time, and most have applied it to a variety of things.

"It just gives me the extra time to plan ahead for the week or the month, instead of staying up late and doing it at night," said Linn Oszakiewski, a second-grade teacher at Winfield Elementary School.

Oszakiewski, who is in her second year, said the chance to meet with the second-grade teaching staff at Winfield has been helpful. The more experienced teachers have given her suggestions, she said.

"We can think of different ways to approach an idea and just brainstorm. We can just tie it all together and work cooperatively," she said. "They just go over things step by step."

The workday of an elementary school teacher is packed, with barely enough time at lunch to eat an apple and make a trip to the restroom before the children are back from the cafeteria.

"It's like being on stage for 6 1/2 hours," Vigliotti said.

Judith Walker, principal at Hampstead Elementary School, said teachers often work many hours after school and at night attending meetings or doing paperwork. That has been alleviated by the delayed openings, she said.

"It's made some things they already do easier," Walker said. "Teachers spend so many hours of their own time."

Oszakiewski said teachers still take work home or occasionally stay late but that some things -- such as a meeting of all the teachers from a school's grade level -- were hard to schedule before the delayed openings.

"Some of them have children they have to get home to," she said of the teachers.

The only other planning time an elementary teacher has during the school day is when the class is at a "special," such as art, physical education, music or the library.

To aid working parents, the before- and after-school day care providers at Hampstead Elementary and several other schools accept students during the two hours that schools open late or dismiss early.

At Hampstead, the provider accepted some students on the late days even if they didn't regularly attend day care. In those cases, parents must find a way to get the students to day care because buses also run two hours late.

Most of Carroll's elementary schools have before- and after-school day care, run by independent providers who lease the cafeteria or gym to provide the care.

Walker said she has heard from two parents about the late-start program, both with questions rather than complaints.

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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