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Baltimore Co. school board votes to close schools two days early


Baltimore County students got two more days of summer vacation last night, when the school board voted unanimously to close schools June 14 instead of June 16, as scheduled.

In a break with tradition, the move gives the students back the two snow days they didn't use. Teachers and school staffs aren't quite as lucky. They will work until noon June 16, with June 15 being used for professional development.

"The board has had a tradition of not eliminating these days [unused snow days], and it's a position I wholeheartedly concur with," said Superintendent Stuart Berger. But because the county is starting school before Labor Day, shortening vacation by a week, "I think it's a very good decision this year," he said.

Board member Sanford V. Teplitzky agreed, saying that the board's decision "should not be viewed as setting a precedent."

County schools will open Aug. 28 -- the first pre-Labor Day opening in recent memory.

And tonight, county students, teachers and parents will get to consider if they want to start before Labor Day in 1996. Although the board will have the final say, the public can weigh in at a hearing at 7:30 tonight at Loch Raven High School.

Under consideration are two proposed calendars for the 1996-1997 school year prepared by a committee of administrators, parents and teachers.

One version would open school Aug. 26, 1996, a week before Labor Day, and end classes June 6. The other proposal would start school Tuesday, Sept. 3, 1996 -- the day after Labor Day -- and close June 13.

Otherwise, there are no major differences between the two. Each calendar builds in three "snow days" for 183 school days, and specifies that additional makeup days would be added at the end of the year.

That controversial change to a pre-Labor Day opening evolved after two school years in which late Labor Days pushed the start of classes into the second week of September. When unusually harsh winters forced schools to close more days than had been planned, havoc resulted, and the makeup remedies pleased no one.

In 1993, the traditional 10-day spring break was sliced after employees and families had made vacation plans. And last spring, students went to school 45 minutes longer for 60 days to make up the time without going later in June.

That long spring break and a four-day weekend in February fell victim to the calendar crises.

To avoid similar problems, spring break this year was reduced to four days around Easter and the long Presidents Day weekend was shortened from four days to three.

Both of the proposed 1996-1997 calendars keep these arrangements.

The calendar committee will consider tonight's comments when it drafts a proposal for Dr. Berger and his staff. After considering that, Dr. Berger's staff will recommend a calendar to the board for a May 23 vote.

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