Following much debate and after receiving suggestions from 1,300 school employees, students, parents and others, the Carroll County school board unanimously approved a five-part plan last night to make up extra days students missed this school year because of snow.
Board members accepted an offer from state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick to waive two days from the state's requirement that students have 180 days of instruction.
They also will ask the state Board of Education to waive a third day, and voted to open school April 17 - a previously designated spring holiday - and April 21, Easter Monday.
If the state denies the board's request for a third waiver day, the county board approved as a contingency plan opening school on Good Friday, April 18.
"This is the first consensus we've had on this," Stephen Guthrie, assistant superintendent of administration, quipped as all five board members haltingly raised hands in favor of the Carroll superintendent's recommendation.
Board member Laura K. Rhodes, in her third month on the panel, asked whether this vote would trigger "the first hate mail I receive."
Veteran board member Gary W. Bauer responded, "Welcome to the club."
The board's vote occurred after Guthrie summarized community responses to a request for public input on how to make up snow days beyond the four built into the school calendar.
Accounting for the fact that those weighing in on the debate could choose any combination of five options, 1,040 people suggested using the April 17 school holiday; 979 recommended accepting Grasmick's waiver offer; 276 encouraged opening school on a state holiday, such as Good Friday, Easter Monday or Memorial Day; 168 were in favor of extending the school year; and 163 approved of lengthening the school day.
"Just take heart in the fact that no matter what you decide, the majority of parents and teachers will not approve," Claire Kwiatkowski, president of the Carroll County Council of PTAs, warned before the vote.
Sharon Fischer, president of the Carroll Association of School Employees, which represents about 500 nurses, secretaries and instructional assistants, cautioned against opening school on Memorial Day.
"Too many people have died upholding the rights of this country, and with the situation we find ourselves in now in foreign lands, that would send the wrong message," she told them.
As a kindergarten assistant, she also argued against lengthening the school year. "Once you start Little League baseball and carnivals," Fischer said, "if you're in elementary school, you might as well pack your bags."
As an alternative to opening on Good Friday under its contingency plan, the board briefly considered adding one day - Monday, June 16 - to the end of the school year.
But Doug Denison, a South Carroll High senior who is the board's nonvoting student representative, quickly spoke up.
"Let me take you, if I may, into the mind of a student on Friday, June 13," he said. "Nothing's going to happen if we come back. ... I jump to say it's worthless. Nothing of any educational value will occur."
Told by Superintendent Charles I. Ecker that seniors - who would have graduated during the weekend - would not have to return to school but that final exams for other students might be moved to June 16, June 17 and June 18, Denison responded, "That's just a dirty thing to do."
In other business, the board:
Accepted Parr's Ridge Elementary as the name for the new Mount Airy elementary school.
Deferred action on proposed changes to a freshman seminar course that ninth-graders must take before promotion to 10th grade.
Heard additional complaints from church groups concerned about increased fees for nonprofit groups to use school facilities on the weekend.