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Baltimore County schools studying proposals to alter school calendar


The Baltimore County school board grappled with change again last night, as it studied proposals to alter next year's unpopular school calendar and rearrange the "feeder" system that determines what middle and high schools students attend.

After moving its meeting to larger quarters to accommodate an expected crowd, the board looked at a revised 1993-94 calendar that would start school Sept. 7, the day after Labor Day.

Several weeks ago, the board approved an Aug. 30 opening day that broke a long-standing county tradition of not starting school before Labor Day and angered students, parents and teachers who had made late-summer work and travel plans.

Officially, the board said it would "revisit" next year's calendar because of an error in the February Presidents Day weekend observance, according to president Rosalie Hellman. The county's holiday did not coincide with the national observance on Feb. 21, 1994.

The Friday and Monday of that long weekend are, however, "tentative" holidays that could be used to make up for snow closing days.

If the board eventually decides to open after Labor Day, schools will be in session until June 17, 1994.

The winter holiday runs from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3 and the spring break will run from March 26 though April 5.

Whenever school opens, a small percentage of students from eight middle and 22 elementary schools may find themselves with more of their friends than they had anticipated.

In a complicated plan to keep classmates together and give families more choices, Superintendent Stuart Berger's staff proposed letting some fifth-graders and some eighth-graders choose between elementary and middle schools, respectively.

The plan would affect students who would graduate to a different school from most of their classmates.

"There are instances where a very few of the graduating class . . . would not be going to the same school as their peers," said James Kraft, the school system's planning manager.

For example, at Cockeysville Middle School, 95 percent of the students go on to Dulaney Valley High School while the remaining 5 percent -- only 13 students next year -- would go Loch Raven High.

Under the new proposal, those 13 students could stay with their classmates and go to Dulaney.

But they would have to find their own transportation to Dulaney -- at least for the first year.

In reality, "it's giving special permission transfers," said Mr. Kraft, noting that this is done frequently on an individual basis.

Should most of the students chose Dulaney, the planning staff would probably ask for a boundary change that would send all Cockeysville Middle students to Dulaney starting in September 1994, he said. Should the Dulaney boundaries be changed, then bus transportation would be available there from the former Loch Raven district, too.

Students from that area in 10th, 11th and 12th grades would remain at Loch Raven and would have school bus transportation.

Once a student started high school, he or she would not be moved because of a boundary change, Mr. Kraft said.

The process would be repeated at the seven other middle schools: Ridgely, Loch Raven, Holabird, Middle River, Deer Park, Franklin and Pikesville.

Boundary changes would, however be sought at only five schools: Cockeysville, Holabird, Middle River, Franklin and Pikesville, Mr. Kraft said. At the other schools, boundaries would remain the same, but students would be able to choose between two high schools.

The new patterns would affect 22 elementary schools, many of which now feed students into two or more middle schools.

The plan would assign students from most of those schools to one middle school, so that all but a handful of the county's 95 elementaries would send students to a single middle school.

No boundary changes are planned for middle schools.

The changes would affect the middle school choices of fewer than 150 students, according to the planning department estimates. No boundary changes are planned for the elementary schools; students would simply be able to choose the middle school where most of their classmates would be assigned.

For instance, at Essex Elementary, 96 percent of the students now go to Stemmers Run Middle with the rest assigned to Middle River Middle. Next year, under this proposal, those few students would be able to attend either school.

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