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School board members hope to restore planning time by hiring more instructors; Officials say hires would reduce class sizes


Proposed changes to Carroll's school calendar have eliminated the built-in lesson-planning time during the school day for elementary teachers.

School board members are committed to restoring the lost time, and one solution might be to spend more to hire additional instructional staff.

Elementary planning time, always a topic of controversy, resurfaced last month when the Board of Education directed school staff to remove the late-start and early-dismissal days from the school calendar in response to parent concerns.

In the past few years, the calendar has included six late-start days spread throughout the year to create 12 hours of built-in planning time for elementary teachers.

"It was something we tried and it didn't work," board member Gary W. Bauer said of the late-start days. "I think those teachers need it [the planning time]."

Board members said they hope Superintendent William H. Hyde's fiscal 2000 operating budget -- to be presented at today's board meeting -- includes enough instructional staff to reduce average class sizes at the elementary level.

Smaller classes would create more planning time for teachers, they said.

"The fact that class sizes have gotten so large is a major problem for those teachers," said Susan Krebs, who takes her seat on the school board today, replacing Carolyn Scott, a panel member for 10 years.

"I had one teacher tell me, 'If I could have a class of 21 kids, I wouldn't need planning time,' " Krebs said.

Ralph C. Blevins, president of the Carroll County Education Association, has told the board that teachers are strongly opposed to eliminating planning time.

"To eliminate the elementary planning time before they [the board] take a look at what the other options are concerns me greatly," Blevins said.

At today's board meeting, Dorothy D. Mangle, assistant superintendent of instruction, plans to present proposals to restore the elementary teacher planning time.

"We need to have some direction from the board about what level of funding they're willing to support," Mangle said. "The more money you direct at resolving the problem, the more planning time you can create for elementary teachers."

Mangle said possible solutions include increasing pupils' reading time in the media center and hiring more physical education teachers so elementary instructors won't have to teach those classes.

Krebs suggested scheduling "special" classes, such as music and art, back to back, so that classroom elementary teachers would have a block of time for planning purposes.

"We have to look at things that still support the learning of children while providing classroom teachers with that time for planning," Mangle said.

Board members decided to eliminate the late-start and early-dismissal days from the calendar after listening to parents' complaints about the accompanying inconveniences. Parents particularly objected to the late openings, saying they disrupt children's routines, reduce classroom time for reading and math, and force parents to change day care arrangements.

Also in response to parent concern, the board directed school staff to draft a calendar that begins one week before Labor Day, instead of two, and ends June 9, 2000.

For the first time, the proposed calendar includes a holiday for pupils and teachers on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2000. Schools are closed for pupils, but teachers must report for a professional day.

Pub Date: 1/13/99

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