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Weather cuts into morning kindergarten,creating disparity for 2 groups of children


Carroll County schools have been closed for seven days this winter because of bad weather.

But morning kindergartners have missed another five days, when schools started two hours late.

And, on one day when school started one hour late, morning kindergartners attended class for only about 90 minutes before they had to get back on their buses and go home to make way for their afternoon counterparts.

"This is the first time I can recall there ever being such a disparity between morning kindergarten and afternoon kindergarten," said Dorothy Mangle, the county's director of elementary education.

In the past, cancellations of morning classes usually balanced early dismissals that canceled afternoon kindergarten, she said.

"I have a son in morning kindergarten who's missed 13 days of school," said Kathryn Henn, PTA president at Spring Garden Elementary School in Hampstead.

Her son and other morning kindergartners went to school for only eight full sessions in January -- often for only one day a week.

Mrs. Mangle said she will meet with principals later this month, and with the director of transportation, to consider ways to balance things for the kindergartners. Complicating factors include bus transportation, day care arrangements and teacher schedules.

"You cannot announce to the world that the next day we have a late start, the afternoon children won't come and the morning children will come in the afternoon," Mrs. Mangle said. "The transportation is so complicated."

Double sessions also could create a space problem, she said.

Another idea is to have the morning students come in and stay a little longer while the buses go out to pick up the afternoon children. When the afternoon children arrive, the morning children would get on the buses to go home.

But Mrs. Mangle said that would provide no break for the kindergarten teachers, who at least need time for lunch.

"At this point, parents realize this is a very unusual situation," she said. "They're willing to listen to the things we are exploring, and give us time to put a plan in place."

Unlike some older children, most kindergartners are disappointed when school is called off because of snow, Mrs. Mangle said. "They're pretty much enthusiastic about school and they would rather be here."

Mrs. Henn and Barbara Leyhe of Taneytown, who has a daughter at Runnymede Elementary School's morning kindergarten, said they don't fault school officials for the weather. They'd rather have children safe than on icy roads.

Mrs. Leyhe said she doesn't worry about her daughter missing classroom instruction.

"If she was in another grade I'd be more worried," Mrs. Leyhe said.

"The worst part is, the routine is broken so badly," she said, on days when decisions must be made on whether to get dressed or stay in pajamas while awaiting radio announcements about school closings and late openings.

At Spring Garden, Mrs. Henn and other parents have called teachers and volunteered to come in and help the morning class catch up by giving extra individual attention to the students.

"I really feel it's just an unavoidable situation," said Mrs. Henn. "Parents have to be really understanding and help the child at home."

Kindergarten teachers are trying to make the best of the situation. Susan Sanner at Piney Ridge Elementary School is condensing some lessons in her morning classes so that the children are keeping up with the afternoon youngsters.

Sylvia Griswold at Spring Garden Elementary is sacrificing a little of the unstructured time in which children choose an activity, and she is using that time to catch up on lessons. There's a larger lesson for the children in her approach, which she explains to them.

"We're just trading something less essential for something that was lost," she said. "I think that teaches children how to solve a problem, instead of just throwing up your hands and saying, 'We can't do that because we lost it.' "

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