Center offers international families a guide to the school system -- in six languages

education notebook

August 27, 2006|By John-John Williams IV

Juhee Park tapped into her experience as a reporter and announcer in her native Korean and volunteered her talents to the International Student and Family Outreach Office for an informational video that explains the Howard County school system to parents with limited English.

Park, who lives in Elkridge, was one of five people who translated the eight-minute video for international parents.

The translators went to the television production studio at the Applications and Research Laboratory, located next to the Board of Education, to complete their contributions.

"I thought it would be a really good opportunity to use my voice and talent to support the project," said Park, whose children attend Long Reach High School and Elkridge Landing Middle School.

The videos, which have been produced in English, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Urdu and Vietnamese, have been shown to parents as they register their children for class at the International Student Registration Center in the Faulkner Ridge Center.

The video gives parents a basic tour of county school buildings, and explains everything from lunchtime to recess.

Young-chan Han, a specialist with the system's International Student and Family Outreach Office, said the video is yet another example of the system's efforts to support international parents.

"We really have things in place so the minute they come here they feel that they are supported," Han said.

School costs

School board members were told this month that rising construction costs would give them less bang for their buck in the coming year.

In the past two years, construction costs have increased 35 percent, according to Ken Roey, executive director of facilities and management. Board members also learned that projections for an anticipated population boom in the western portion of the county were inaccurate.

"We're seeing a fairly significant drop in enrollment," said Roey, who projected an enrollment for this year of 48,360, 1,000 fewer students than once expected. Roey said that higher-priced housing units tend to yield fewer children. However, he projected an enrollment increase of 1,000 children in the county in the next year.

At its August meeting, the board also discussed future money that could be used for capital projects. The outlook was bleak.

For the past three years, the school system has relied on money from an excise tax to help pay capital costs. But after more than $60 million was generated from a $1-per-square-foot surcharge on new homes, the money has run out.

Roey said it will be a challenge to raise enough money to pay for future capital projects.

"I don't have a lot of great ideas right now," he said.

Board member Courtney Watson suggested that Roger Plunkett, the business, community, government relations officer for the system, be asked to start lobbying for more money with local members in the state legislature.

Board member Mary Kay Sigaty asked about the future of systemic renovations at several high schools, including Centennial and Hammond. Sigaty said that students at Hammond approached her at graduation and informed her of subpar conditions for dancers, who have to share space with wrestlers and use unsuitable floors.

Roey said that it is important to limit the number of new construction sites.

"If we can stop building new schools and focus on the needs of our old schools, those problems would be addressed," he said.

Student parking

Student drivers at Mount Hebron High School are getting a clean slate when they return to school tomorrow.

New Principal David Brown has given amnesty to students for any outstanding parking fines received last school year. Brown, who worked as an assistant principal at River Hill for the past seven years, made the announcement this month through the school's online newsletter.

"It wasn't something that I wanted to pursue," Brown said about the violations. "I am going to be working through my administration, not through the previous administration."

Brown added that he did not know the exact number of violations that he excused.

Student-related driving incidents have been a frequent issue at Mount Hebron.

In April, 33 Mount Hebron students had their parking privileges revoked after failing to attend a mandatory safe-driving class that was prompted by a February accident in which a student was killed.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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