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School opening remains scheduled for Sept. 8, after a bit of confusion


The Baltimore County school board seems to be suffering another bout of calendar confusion. And this case may be more serious than the last, which dragged on six months.

Consider the symptoms exhibited at Tuesday's regular board meeting.

At the urging of new member Sanford V. Teplitzky, the board agreed to "review" the next school year's calendar, adopted in last July and presented as official with an opening day of Sept. 8. Mr. Teplitzky asked that the calendar committee of parents, teachers and administrators reconvene to consider a pre-Labor Day opening, which would make it easier to accommodate "snow days."

Although the board voted 5 to 3 to review the 1994-'95 calendar, the members did not know if the motion had passed because they didn't know if they needed a majority of the board, six votes, or a majority of those present. Nine of the 10 members were present, but the board president votes only when there is a tie.

Decision or no, the board voted to start next school year Sept. 7, one day earlier than scheduled, but close a day the next week for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

That decision came after Superintendent Stuart Berger said he would withdraw the recommendation, but then Mr. Teplitzky realized that Sept. 7 was the second day of Rosh Hashana, another Jewish observance. Mr. Teplitzky, president of the Baltimore Jewish Council, then asked to change his vote on the Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur swap. Others did likewise and the opening was left at Sept. 8.

Dr. Berger said the 5 to 3 vote would pass the "review" motion, which means that the board will still have an opportunity to change the opening date. When the 1995-'96 calendar committee convenes, the county school system will have two calendar committees, each working on a different school year.

And the board is still tinkering with this year's calendar. Just hours after adjusting the calendar to reflect the previous nine "snow days," the school system closed yesterday for the 10th time. The school year now ends Wednesday, June 22.

Concern over those days in the third full week of June led Mr. Teplitzky into the calendar conundrum. "I think it's very unfair that we are going to go into that week," he said. "I question whether anything of value would be accomplished."

Dr. Berger agreed that little work would be done, but what's a school system to do? The system already has cut spring break by four days, and the Maryland State Board of Education is not looking favorably on waiving the 180-day requirement, he said. With the current school calendar taken care of, board members looked to next year. Board Vice President Calvin Disney heightened their anxiety when he told them the county will be the only school system in Maryland opening after Labor Day.

Though Dr. Berger has lobbied hard for an early opening, he and board President Alan Leberknight frowned on possible changes in the 1994-'95 calendar and noted public sentiment about starting school after the September holiday.

"I think we have an obligation to live up to the calendar," said Dr. Berger. "Even the suggestion that you are going to look at this calendar is going to create a significant public reaction."

"I'm very wary of doing anything that implies we are going to change," added Mr. Leberknight, who said he received more letters and phone calls about the calendar than about almost any other issue.

Last spring, school officials formed a citizens' calendar committee at a time when Dr. Berger and the board were being criticized for not listening to and communicating with the community. That group proposed a post-Labor Day opening. The superintendent's staff suggested opening Aug. 30.

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