When elementary school teachers heard that their students would spend 15 more minutes a week with the art teacher, they were grateful.
"At least we can go to the bathroom once a week now," said Jeanne Henderson, who teaches first grade at Carrolltowne Elementary School.
Elementary teachers have been asking for years for more planning time. At yesterday's school board meeting, several showed up to drive home the message.
It was the first meeting of the year that they were able to attend; until this month, they were always in class when the school board met.
"They were grateful for the 15 minutes, and they didn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth," Ms. Henderson said. "But it's such a small step and so much more is needed."
Superintendent Brian Lockard said that in an effort to determine whether there are other short- and long-term solutions to the need for more planning time, he would reactivate the committee that came up with the plan to add more art time.
Dr. Lockard said he didn't want to cut any more instructional time but that there might be ways to relieve teachers of some of their supervisory tasks, such as escorting students to and from the art room, the library, the music room and the gym.
The teacher contract says elementary teachers must get at least 200 minutes a week for planning. But over the past five years, the school board has increased the amount of physical education time so that teachers had 230 minutes by last September.
This year, they added 15 minutes to art class, which children take once a week.
That means a classroom teacher will have 245 minutes a week, starting in September, of planning time while his or her students are with the specialty instructors or in the library.
Ms. Henderson and other teachers said that time gets eaten away quickly by teachers' myriad tasks: planning lessons, getting books from the school library, calling a parent about a student's performance, grading papers and preparing bulletin boards.
Traditionally, parent volunteers have often helped with some of those tasks, or at least worked with students so that teachers could do them. But parent involvement is waning because both parents usually work outside the home, Ms. Henderson said.
Teachers take work home, she said, but much of it has to be done in school because of the heavy curriculum guides and other resources teachers use in planning lessons.
Cynthia Cummings, president of the Carroll County Education Association and an elementary teacher herself, suggested that the board look into ways high school students who need to provide community service hours could help give teachers with more planning time.
Students in middle and high schools already can earn hours through tutoring their peers.
Cheryl Crandall, a special education teacher at Taneytown Elementary School, suggested some ways to provide more time to allow teachers to go one step further and have more meetings with each other. She suggested an early dismissal one day a week or one day a month, or hiring more teachers for the academic subjects.
School board member Carolyn L. Scott praised the teachers for bringing their concerns to the meeting.
"I'm really impressed by your presentation," Ms. Scott said. "You came with ideas, and I think that's wonderful. I'm sure we'll all work on it and we'll get there."