A Howard County forum on year-round education brought out more than 200 curious citizens who left with mixed reactions to the idea of a different school-year calendar.
Some parents who attended yesterday's forum in Ellicott City said that they needed more information on year-round education, a nationally growing trend that has attracted Gov. William Donald Schaefer's attention as a possible solution to costly school construction.
The forum, believed to be the first of its kind in the state, comes as the governor pushes school districts to test year-round education as early as next school year.
Although Mr. Schaefer had suggested Howard as the first county to test the concept, county school officials say it may take them until the end of the next school year to determine whether year-round schooling is even feasible.
They have hired a consulting firm to conduct a countywide survey of parents and residents. They will also poll students and teachers informally in December.
"Both the board members and I recognize moving to year-round education is a major cultural change," Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said yesterday. "[We] are not taking it lightly."
After the forum, Columbia resident Fawn Foerster was sold on the idea because it would allow her to take vacations throughout the year.
She also believed that shortening summer vacations would help her children learn better.
"The idea of continuous studies makes sense," she said. "Teachers spend a month reviewing. That's ridiculous. I think it's shameful we're still on a stupid calendar that makes [students] forget what they learn."
The forum had two national year-round education specialists who presented detailed information on how the schedule works.
Although the specialists said that school systems would save money, some parents were not convinced that the cost of operating multitrack, year-round schools would be lower than building new schools.
Multitrack systems stagger students' schedules, effectively increasing the capacity of each building by 25 percent to 33 percent.