Instead of having a shortened spring break, Howard County pupils will make up an unexpected snow day on June 16, school board members decided at a workshop last night.
In a 4-1 vote, the board extended the school year by an extra day to make up for Monday, the fifth snow day of the school year. Just last week, the board voted to have pupils attend class for a half-day April 16 to make up for earlier canceled classes rather than cut a day from spring break.
Schools ordinarily would have closed on June 10, but June 11, 14 and 15 have been designated as makeup days for other snow closings. Though the first day of spring break -- March 29 -- is counted as a makeup day on the school calendar, school officials were concerned about cutting into the vacation plans of parents, pupils and teachers.
"This last snowstorm that occurred on Monday occurred less than two weeks before spring break," said Superintendent Michael E. Hickey. "By the time it got to be three to four weeks before spring break, they probably thought [making spring break plans] was a good gamble."
Still, Hickey called the compromise a "no-win" situation, and said the school system would work out a plan to accommodate pupils -- especially high school students taking exams -- who have immediate summer vacation plans.
Other options -- holding school on Memorial Day, Easter Monday, or extending the school day -- were probably too problematic to be considered, Hickey said.
Though the state Board of Education once allowed Howard County schools to have extended days to make up for snow closings, it is unlikely that it would do so again, he said.
"The state board said very clearly, `OK, we'll do it this time, but don't come knocking at this door again unless it's cataclysmic circumstances,' " Hickey said.
Howard school board member Jane B. Schuchardt said that many students -- and some teachers -- probably wouldn't come to school March 29 if they had planned a vacation.
"I'm not sure it's going to be a productive day anyway," Schuchardt said. "I will never vote for a calendar that takes away spring break. I can't do that to teachers. It's not fair."
But board Chairwoman Karen B. Campbell voted against adding the makeup day to the end of the year, saying that the board should stick to the calendar it voted for -- even if that means cutting spring break.
"I think it's inappropriate for the board to value vacation plans over the orderly administration of final exams," Campbell said. "I personally feel very strongly about following the guidelines in the calendar the board adopted. I think we set a bad example of not following through on rules, process and procedure."
Also at last night's meeting, board members appeared on track to delay redistricting for children in northeastern elementary schools when they approve boundary lines Thursday. Because schools in that part of the county aren't growing as fast as the school system expected, redistricting there can probably wait, officials have said.
Kalin and board members addressed some of the often emotional testimony made at Tuesday night's redistricting public hearing. Vice Chairman Stephen C. Bounds allowed that redistricting is unpleasant, but he implored residents to gather facts and offer the board helpful suggestions.
Bounds noted that several parents mentioned a study claiming that children who are redistricted suffer academically. But none of them produced the study, even though board members asked to see it, he said.
"I don't believe it exists," Bounds said. "That's a blatant attempt to mislead and misguide. That, I find very troubling."
Bounds also took issue with parents who criticized other county schools and their staffs in testimony. "I find that personally distasteful and repugnant," he said. "It has no place in the arguments we're going to consider."
Kalin addressed criticism from parents who urged the board to preserve neighborhood schools. He said that some neighborhoods that once had large numbers of school-aged children -- such as Steven's Forest -- have matured, leaving fewer pupils.
"If you fix the boundaries, you put schools out of business," he said. "You have to start thinking in terms of community schools."
Pub Date: 3/19/99