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Abbreviated summer ahead, Hickey warns


Howard County parents who have already made vacation plans for this summer may have to change them.

School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey warned parents last night that the school year would be extended past June 9, the scheduled last day of school, because students have to make up the days schools were closed because of snow and ice.

"I'm putting this information out now so that people don't make plans," Dr. Hickey said.

As of yesterday, the school system had closed five days for inclement weather, two more than the allotted number of days. And while the Maryland Department of Education last year waived a day that was supposed to be made up, it did so in violation of state law, Dr. Hickey said.

The law allows state education officials to waive makeup days only after students attend classes five days beyond the last scheduled day.

Students and parents won't have to endure an extended school year by themselves. Teachers will have to make up a staff work day that was also canceled because of bad weather, Dr. Hickey said.

School board members at last night's meeting spent much of the time discussing Dr. Hickey's proposed $213.6 million operating budget for the next fiscal year.

They asked Dr. Hickey why certain categories of spending showed increases and pointed to funding for a staff development coordinator's position that was transferred from the instructional budget to the staff development budget, resulting in a $112,000 increase in the latter category.

Schools budget officer David White responded that the change was made to accurately relect how the money is spent.

Board member Deborah Kendig stressed the importance of a budget document that accurately reflects expenditures.

"It's read by a lot of people who don't necessary understand what they're reading," she said. "This is a real policy manual."

Board members Sandra French and Linda Johnston requested changing the starting time at Cedar Lane School, which enrolls physically disabled students. Ms. French and Ms. Johnston want a starting time of either 8:10 a.m., which would cost $120,000 in additional transportation costs; or 8:30 a.m., which would cost $170,000 more. The current starting time is 7:50 a.m.

Their request came after a parent, at a board hearing last week, presented testimony that she and other parents needed extra time in the morning to prepare their children for school.

Ms. Kendig and school board Chairman Dana Hanna opposed the request, saying some parents of special education parents liked the earlier starting time.

"Are you going to find $120,000 in the budget?" Ms. Kendig asked.

"I don't know if I could do that. . . . ," Ms. Johnston replied.

Also last night, the board approved an Elkridge site for a new northeastern elementary school scheduled to open in fall 1996. The 35-acre parcel of wooded land sits on Ilchester Road, near Trinity School, a private Roman Catholic school. The site has enough space to build a middle school as well.

Parents and residents had opposed the site, saying building a school there would increase traffic and destroy the parcel's rural nature. Board members defended their decision, saying developers would have built homes there otherwise.

Ms. Kendig added that school officials would not destroy the five trees that have a diameter greater than 36 inches.

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