Baltimore County schools negotiating with teachers for longer high school day to avoid extending school year

Liz Bowie
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County’s teachers and administrators have begun negotiations to add more instructional time per day to the high school schedule, following a decision by the state school board to exempt the county this year from the law that requires students to be in class for a certain number of hours each year.

The state school board ruled Tuesday that the county’s high schoolers won’t have to make up eight hours of instructional time they lost this year to bad weather, on the condition that the county rework its high school schedule to lengthen the time students are in class each day. Without the waiver, the school system would will have to extend the high school year by one day, to June 18.

Baltimore County high schoolers spend the least time in school — 6½ hours a day — of any school system in the state. Most Maryland high schoolers are in school for 6 hours and 45 minutes, while some spend more than 7 hours in school every day.

The two sides began meeting Tuesday night, only a few hours after the state school board’s decision.

“I have already met at least twice — last night and this morning,” said Abby Beytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County. “There is absolutely an urgency.”

To add more instructional time to the high school day, the county school system must negotiate with the teachers union. Beytin said teachers want to be paid more for that time. She declined to go into details about how much money the teachers are asking for and how many minutes the administration wants to add to the high school day.

“I hope that the administration and [teachers union] can reach agreement to satisfy the state board’s contingency so the school year may conclude on June 15,” said Baltimore County school board Chair Edward Gilliss.

Superintendent Verletta White and her administrators declined to be interviewed for this article, saying they would issue a press release when there is a resolution.

The school district issued a news release Wednesday stating that the last day of school will be on June 15, and that “BCPS will devise a plan to address extending the school day.”

All teachers in the county already work a seven-hour day, so teachers would not have to stay in the school building any longer.

Beytin said the teachers are motivated to a reach a deal with the county quickly, because everyone had planned to end school on June 15. Many teachers have made commitments that start after that date, she said.

The state does not require elementary and middle school students to be in class as long as high schoolers, so it is only the high school schedule that needs adjusting, Beytin said. Despite that, the union wants any increase in pay to go to all teachers — not just high school teachers. Under the contract, all teachers are paid based on the number of years they have been in the system and their academic credentials.

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