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Carroll board yields, proposes new school calendar Revision has fall classes beginning one week before Labor Day, not two


In response to parents' concerns, the Carroll Board of Education yesterday scrapped a proposed calendar for next school year and drafted a blueprint calling for schools to start one week before Labor Day instead of two.

Other suggested calendar changes for the 1999-2000 academic year include the elimination of late-start and early-dismissal days and shifting the placement of unused snow days, which are typically used as extra vacation days.

Under the plan agreed to by the board, schools could start next year Aug. 30 and finish June 9.

The board did not vote on a new calendar, but directed staff to study the changes before its next meeting Jan. 13. The board may not take an official vote on the calendar until its February meeting.

Board members were supposed to vote yesterday on a proposed 1999-2000 calendar -- with the first day of school Aug. 23 and the last day June 2. But during the residents' participation portion of the meeting, several parents strongly criticized that schedule.

Their complaints centered mainly on starting school two weeks before Labor Day and starting school two hours late on certain days during the school year to allow planning time for elementary teachers.

"I don't know one parent who would approve that calendar," said Rick Drozinski, president of Hampstead Elementary School PTA.

Opening school two weeks before Labor Day interferes with vacation plans and students' summer jobs and creates uncomfortable conditions in schools without air conditioning, parents told the board.

They also objected to the late-start days, which are built into the calendar for teacher planning time, and early dismissal times, set aside for parent conferences. They said the six late-start days disrupt children's routines, reduce classroom time for reading and math and force parents to change day care arrangements.

"Kids need consistency at that age, and coming in two hours late really interrupts it," said parent Jane Evans.

Board members agreed with parents, but found that replacing the 12 hours of planning time for elementary teachers is a thorny issue.

Ralph Blevins, president of the Carroll County Education Association, which represents county teachers, said the elimination of the planning time troubled him.

"There's no way elementary teachers can do the job they're doing now unless that time is replaced," Blevins said. "Teaching has become dramatically different in terms of what's expected of teaching methods and content."

Blevins said he supports setting aside two full days for parent conferences instead of dismissing students early for the meetings.

Board member Joseph D. Mish suggested adding money to the school system's operating budget to schedule after-school planning time for elementary teachers. However, Dorothy Mangle, assistant superintendent of instruction, said teachers probably wouldn't favor that solution.

"Elementary teachers do not support extending their work day," Mangle said. "It starts to impact on their personal lives."

On the issue of five unused snow days, the board agreed to move the first one from April 25 to April 20 to accommodate Jewish students who wish to observe Passover. They favored adding three of the days to spring break, and putting one at the end of the year.

Blevins urged the board to close schools for teachers and students on Martin Luther King Day. Schools now are closed for students, but teachers must report for a professional day.

He said Carroll is the only county in Maryland that does not give teachers the day off for the holiday.

Board President C. Scott Stone directed Superintendent William Hyde to make a decision about whether to close schools for staff on Martin Luther King's birthday. He also asked Hyde to meet with CCEA representatives to discuss ways to solve the elementary teachers planning issue.

In other business before the board yesterday, Mangle presented the annual class size report comparing the current school year with the 1997-1998 year.

At the elementary level, the average class size dropped from 24.4 students to 23.5, because of additional teachers hired at the early grade levels. Mangle said schools were able to eliminate combination classes, in which teachers taught two grade levels and curriculums.

In the middle schools, the average academic class size is down from 27.7 pupil to 26. Average class size increased at the high school level from 24.7 students to 25.4.

Pub Date: 12/10/98

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