When it comes to finding a way to eliminate the shortage of elementary teacher planning time, one solution may not work for all schools.
Ray R. Keech, superintendent of schools said at a Monday night school board meeting that the solution suggested by the Harford County Education Association -- changing the starting times at elementary schools -- wouldn't work because it could cost the school system up to $300,000 more each year in additional salary and benefits to the school system's 350 bus drivers.
"I was hoping this silver-bullet proposal could be used to expand time," Mr. Keech said. "I like the proposal, but in as tight a budget as we have, we don't have $300,000."
Mr. Keech instead recommended that each elementary school try to develop its own solution.
Jean R. Thomas, president of the Harford County Education Association, had recommended that elementary school start one hour later one day a week, at 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. Teachers could use that time to plan lessons.
On the other four days each week, school would start 10 minutes early, at 8:50 a.m., so students could make up some of the lost time.
Mrs. Thomas said earlier she liked that solution, which had the backing of the executive board of the teacher's union, because it would apply to all of the county's 29 elementary schools.
She said she worried that if each school were left to make its own arrangements, some would not come up with a solution to the problem.
Possible solutions have been debated since April, when the school board voted 6-1 to eliminate eight half-days of teacher planning time.
Many parents said the half-days which released children early from school were a day care nightmare. And school board members said that the half-days took away from classroom learning time.
Union representatives, teachers and parents began meeting as a committee in August to develop ideas that would make up for the lost time.
Unfortunately parents surveyed by the Harford County Council of PTAs "overwhelmingly" opposed changing the starting time of elementary school because of the child care problems it posed, said Kathy Carmello, who headed the teacher planning time committee.
"Parents support their children's teachers and want them to get additional planning time but they don't like changing the starting times of school," she said, speaking at the Monday night school board meeting.
She said parents, and many teachers, felt each school should develop its own solution.
Mrs. Carmello, who has a son at Ring Factory Elementary in Bel Air, said she got back about 1,000 surveys from parents from eight elementary schools. About 70 percent of the respondents were opposed to changing the starting times of school days.