Letters to the Editor

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Buses offer solution to Carroll traffic ills

Easing morning and evening rush hour traffic on Routes 140, 97 in Westminster and 30 is a no-brainer.

Quality of life doesn't require the spending of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to add to our county and state's road and gridlock creep, which, it turns out, only destroys the very quality of life that we now enjoy. It requires the simple application of the principles of free enterprise that has made America the most dynamic country the world's people has ever seen.

If our two local, privately owned bus companies can move people to other parts of the state and nation for entertainment, surely they should be allowed to move them for purposes of work, college and to seek employment. So don't call it a bus line or a bus route. Call it a shuttle service, the kind we all are familiar with that moves people quickly and efficiently from airport parking lots to the terminal or from airports to downtown hotels.

And where would this shuttle service begin to pick up commuters? That's a nobrainer, too. The three places where our gridlock begins are Taneytown, and the Pennsylvania line on Routes 97 and 30, for starters. Building commuter parking lots at these locations and along these routes, as needed, would cost a whole lot less in taxpayer dollars than if we were to opt for a gridlocking spaghetti of asphalt covered, pollution-creating, inter-connectors that do nothing but help to destroy our Agricultural industry.

Our local bus companies could pick up commuters along these routes and shuttle them to the Owings Mills Metro station in the morning and return with them from there in the evening. After all, a lot of Carroll County's commuters already drive to Owings Mills and park and ride.

James D. Witiak

Union Bridge

School calendar a complex creation

Everyone knows we cannot change the weather. However, we can change the effect of the weather on the school calendar. Each season of the school year brings its unique weather-related challenges. The start of school carries with it the hot days of summer. Fall threatens high winds from latent tropical storms. Winter blows freezing wind, snow, and ice and spring rains can cause flooding. Over the past 15 years, schools were closed for each of these events. The good news is that we develop school calendars with this eventuality in mind.

At first glance, coordinating the school calendar appears to be a simple, straightforward process. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Every event during the school year revolves around the school calendar. As a result, the calendar is developed through hours of work, discussion, and community input. The goal is to create a calendar that complies with the law, anticipates extreme weather, and, at the same time, supports student learning.

The Calendar Creation Committee develops the calendar. The committee is chaired by the Director of Human Resources, and its members include teachers, administrators, a Carroll County Student Government Association representative, parents, and instructional directors. Each year, during May and June, the school system asks for input from employee bargaining units, parent organizations, and members of the community.

In July, the Calendar Committee reviews all suggestions and develops a proposed calendar that is reviewed by the Superintendent of Schools and presented to the Board of Education in August. During the next 60 days, the Board seeks input from the community regarding the proposed calendar. The proposed calendar is presented to the Board of Education for adoption at its October meeting.

The Calendar Committee faces many limitations as the calendar is developed. For example, the Annotated Code of Maryland requires that schools be closed on the following public school holidays: Thanksgiving Day and the day after; Christmas Eve and from then through January 1; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Presidents' Day; The Friday before Easter and from then through the Monday after Easter; Memorial Day; and Primary and General Election Days.

Teacher conference days are scheduled to encourage participation by parents, and, if possible, closely follow the distribution of report cards. Professional days for teachers are scheduled throughout the school year. Non-school days for students cannot conflict with the Maryland Assessment Program, and student attendance must be an important consideration as the calendar is developed.

Schools must be open for students for at least 180 school days and a minimum of 1,080 school hours for elementary and middle school student and 1,170 for high school students. The length of the school day must be at least three hours. In addition, the number of employee workdays must comply with negotiated agreements.

The school year starts for students the last week of August and must end by the second Friday in June, unless the school year is lengthened because of inclement weather. The Calendar Committee is also required to build in four emergency closing days. If any of these days are not used, the committee designates days when school will be closed.

However, the school system will not have to worry about unused inclement weather days this year. As of Monday, February 10, the school system has closed five days for inclement weather, one more than was built into the calendar. This presents a challenge for the school system. How will the school system make up this or any additional snow days? This year, the calendar approved by the Board of Education directs the school system to add days to the end of the school year for days taken because of inclement weather. The school system will wait until the threat of snow is over to confirm this option or develop other alternatives. Staff will make a formal recommendation to the Board of Education. This recommendation will be open for community input. The Board members will take the staff recommendation and community input to make a final decision.

If you would like additional information about the school calendar, you can access it from the school system's website at www.carr.org/ccps. Information is also available by contacting the school system's Office of Community and Media Relations at 410-751-3020.

C. Scott Stone

Hampstead

The writer is a member of the Board of Education of Carroll County.

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