Resistance expected on proposal to shorten spring break



School officials say they expect resistance from parents in the coming weeks as the school board contemplates a proposal to shorten spring break.

Now the break is six days - Monday through Friday and the following Monday. Under the proposed change, the new break would run three days - Thursday, Friday and the following Monday.

Officials say the change is in response to several factors, including a desire to shorten the school year, a need to create more time for summer construction projects, a need to add instruction days leading up to the High School Assessments and more time at the end of the school year so parents and students can plan to pursue summer school courses.

In addition, a shorter break would allow for additional instructional days before Memorial Day, schools spokeswoman Patti Caplan said.

"We know that the most effective instruction takes place before Memorial Day," Caplan said. "We wanted to put as many days of instruction in the calendar before Memorial Day."

The accommodation of school construction projects also is a key consideration, Caplan said.

"We are looking at a lot more renovations and construction now that we are not building any new schools," she said.

Some of the negative aspects of shortening spring break, according to a board report on the proposal, include less time for high school students to visit colleges, the need for a longer break at that point in the year for teachers and students, the scaling back of school enrichment trips, the use of the time by some families for vacations, and the fact that the date of the last day of school is never guaranteed because of possible weather-induced makeup days added to the calendar.

The changes to the school calendar were to be shared with board members Thursday night. A public hearing about the proposed changes is scheduled for Dec. 11. The school board is expected to take action Jan. 8.

World cultures

About 200 students from Worthington Elementary, Long Reach High and Glenelg Country School were scheduled to gather Friday at Worthington for a world cultures project that allowed students to gain a better appreciation for foreign countries.

The event was supposed to be latest in a number of events among the schools.

Students at each of the schools have been studying foreign countries. On Friday, the students were to have the opportunity to interview people from a foreign country or who had extensive knowledge of the country.

"This is a great opportunity for our students to honor the diversity of their community and to gain a firsthand impression of countries from people who have lived in these countries or have traveled there extensively," said David Weeks, the civic leadership director for Glenelg Country School and co-organizer of the event.

In all, 29 nations - including New Zealand, Thailand, Iran and Ireland - were to be represented during the event.

"Instead of seeing a media portrayal of controversial countries, the students are connecting those countries with a personal perspective," Weeks said.

Through the interviews, students were to gain a better understanding of a country's traditions, holidays, language and customs through the event, Weeks said.

Tenth-graders at Glenelg Country School have been working with third-graders at Worthington Elementary for a presentation slated for February.

Election basics

First-graders at St. John's Parish Day School in Ellicott City used teddy bears to learn about the election process last week.

On Tuesday, the students in three classes picked from two choices. In one class, the candidates were Cody Bear and Nicholas Bear.

Before voting, the students discussed the characteristics that make a good president, school spokeswoman Lisa Miles said. The students then choose their candidate and made signs, buttons and slogans in an attempt to sway the vote of their classmates. The students also "registered" to vote.

"It helps them understand the basic principals of an election, and by thinking of characteristics that make a good candidate it helps them think of what they consider important," Miles said.

While the first-graders went through their teddy bear election, the older students began the student council election process.

In the teddy bear election, Cody topped Nicholas.

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