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Proposed calendar cuts half-day at high schools


The proposed Howard County school calendar for 2005-2006 reduces the number of half-days for high school students by one, bringing the total to 10.

Half-days are allotted for scheduling exams, parent-teacher conferences and teacher work time. But short days have been a concern because they disrupt instruction time and after-school plans.

A school calendar committee recommended turning one of the four half-days usually set aside for high school semester exams in January into a full day. Based on comments from high school administrators, the committee concluded that six exams can be administered during the three half-days, while a seventh one could be given during the modified full-day schedule, according to a report presented to the school board this month.

The committee, which had been meeting since September, looked at several scheduling options that would have enabled students to take the exams on full days but decided against them.

In 1992, the school system moved to a half-day exam schedule to give teachers time to mark the tests and prepare grades.

Under the proposal, the number of half-days for middle and elementary schools would remain at nine during the 2005-2006 school year.

The committee also examined other issues, including whether to start school earlier than the week before Labor Day and shortening spring break to allow for more instruction and flexibility toward the end of the year.

In both cases, the committee decided against making any changes.

The first day of school for Howard students next year would be Aug. 29, under the proposal. An earlier start date for next year had been considered because 10 districts in Maryland began school earlier than Howard students this year.

"We wanted to take a good look at it so that we would be comfortable going back to the board to say that our start date is appropriate," said Patti Caplan, the committee chairwoman and a schools spokeswoman.

Spring break also would remain one week long next year - April 10-17 - under the committee's proposal.

In making its recommendations, the committee reviewed past school calendars and surveys of parents and teachers.

"The comments we got from staff and parents helped us get a better understanding of the issues," Caplan said.

The school board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the 2005-2006 school calendar proposal Jan. 13.

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