The Howard County school board will decide in April whether to place the county's elementary and middle schools on a year-round calendar.
The board agreed late Thursday night to make a decision during its April 25 meeting. The board scheduled a public hearing for April 2 and a public work session for April 18.
The decision was delayed until April to give members of the community time to study a report presented to the board Thursday night explaining how the traditional 10-month calendar could be stretched to 12 months.
The delay also gives the board time to work on school redistricting and next year's operating budget.
The year-round education study concluded that the school system could save $15.5 million over the next 20 years by switching calendars, primarily because of reduced spending for new school construction.
The board plans to open six new elementary and three new middle schools in the next four years to accommodate rapidly rising student enrollment.
The study envisioned a calendar of three 12-week instructional sessions and three vacations of three weeks each, plus abbreviated summer and winter vacations.
Students would continue to attend school for 180 days a year.
Construction money could be saved by dividing the student body at some elementary schools into groups, with one group on vacation while the rest are in school.
The remaining elementary schools and all middle schools would switch to year-round calendars with all students on the same schedule and taking vacation at the same time, the report said.
The study did not offer any opinion as to whether the board ought to approve the proposal, instead simply explaining how year-round education could work.
The board spent 3 1/2 hours discussing the report Thursday night, raising many questions about cost assumptions and other issues that the school system staff will study between now and April.
The April public hearing likely will attract significant opposition. A December 1993 survey of Howard residents found that only a third favor switching school calendars.