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Schools may end Friday graduations


High school commencement exercises could be shifted to a Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday schedule next year to accommodate the Jewish Sabbath.

The school board will consider a proposal to change the school calendar at Monday's meeting at 7 p.m. in the Southampton Middle School cafeteria. Superintendent Ray R. Keech is expected to recommend the shift.

Commencement exercises for the county's nine high schools and the John Archer School are scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in the last week of next May.

Harford graduations traditionally have been held those days of the week, but Friday graduations conflict with the Jewish Sabbath, which begins Friday evening.

Last month, the board approved the 1996-1997 calendar, which scheduled high school graduations Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the first week in June 1997. The John Archer School for special education will graduate students on Friday afternoon that week.

"It's a long time in coming," Rabbi Kenneth B. Block of the Harford Jewish Center said of the changes in the graduation schedule. "It's all coming about with the push for multicultural education."

The board also will vote on the allocation of funds in the 1995-1996 budget. The County Council voted last month to give the school system a $101 million operating budget. That's a $3.5 million more than the 1994-1995 budget, even though the school board had requested a $5 million increase.

The council's budget provides for 39 new classroom teachers, two additional special education teachers and seven more guidance counselors, school system spokesman Donald R. Morrison said. The school system needs at least 85 additional teachers to keep class sizes at their current levels, according to the board's original budget request.

The board can shift money within the council's recommendation, but "it's a bit early to tell how much of an adjustment to make," School Board President Ronald R. Eaton said.

Among other issues the board will address is a proposal to limit the number of excused absences for family vacations, included in an attendance policy revision. Some parents say the proposed five-day limit on vacation absences in a school year is too strict.

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