Gainous considers extending school day

Feb. 14, 2002, midnight | By Stephen Wertheim | 18 years, 11 months ago

Plan would offer optional Saturday and summer classes as well as longer school hours

Blair may eventually adopt an extended school day in which the school would remain open for about 14 hours and students could choose which hours they attend, according to Principal Phillip Gainous. Movement toward the extended day is "likely," said Gainous, to begin next year with a school day lengthened by one period and with regular instructional classes offered on Saturdays and during the summer.

Under next year's plan, students could still follow a traditional schedule and take the same number of courses as they do now, as Gainous emphasized that all the added classes would be optional.

Gainous said he has received support from the MCPS central office to begin an instructional program this summer, which he likened to a third semester, as well as to add Saturday, potentially on a half-day schedule, to next year's school week. The initiatives, along with the possible creation of ninth period, aim to let students take more courses and make their schedules more flexible, Gainous said.

The MCPS Office of Student and Community Services (OSCS) is supportive of Gainous' plans for next year and is looking at ways to coordinate them, according to Mary Dempsey, an administrative assistant in the office. She said that although identifying funding might prove difficult, the extensions into Saturday and summer and the extra period are "all very doable."

The OSCS would help set up the programs, but Dempsey said the principal has "absolute control" over planning and decision making.

The changes proposed for next year may gradually lead to the broader extended day of about 14 hours that Gainous and Blair's instructional council are considering.

With the 14-hour extended day—which Gainous said could constitute an "integral part" of Blair's participation in the Down-County Consortium slated to begin in 2004—Gainous believes students would gain an increased ability to hold jobs and take courses at the vocational Thomas Edison High School of Technology.

Under an extended day, Gainous said, high school instruction and adult education would combine, allowing adults access to facilities, such as computer labs, that are not currently open to them and fostering a stronger sense of community. "I can envision in some of our evening periods, we may have adults in here—somebody's mom and dad taking classes right along with them," Gainous said.

He added that customized schedules could enhance the performance of students who feel they function ineffectively early in the morning and could produce less disruptive behavior since students' needs would be better fulfilled.

Because Edison classes would be offered at numerous times during an extended day, Gainous said an increase in the number of Blair students attending Edison would help alleviate Blair's overcrowding problem.

Assistant Principal Carole Working also pointed out that distributing Blair's population throughout the day would ease crowding. "If the equivalent of one of our [grades] is choosing to come in later and do an afternoon schedule, classes get smaller, class space is available and it's easier for classes to get labs and access to places like the media center," she said.

Both Gainous and Edison Principal Beverly McAnulty predict that the broader extended day will eventually happen in some form, although details of its implementation have not yet been thoroughly discussed. Gainous describes the MCPS central office as "on board" with extended-day planning, particularly with the Saturday and summer components.

Additionally, Walter Gibson, director of the Down-County Consortium, said he is exploring the idea of an extended day to make more flexible the schedules of the down-county population, which, he said, includes students who are parents and hold demanding jobs.

Blair would be unique in the county if it adopted an extended day of about 14 hours. James Foran of the Maryland State Department of Education believes such a schedule would also make Blair unique in the state.

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Stephen Wertheim. Co-editor-in-chief Stephen Wertheim is deeply committed to reporting, even when it conflicts with such essential life activities as food consumption, sleep and viewership of Seinfeld reruns. In addition to getting carried away with writing and playing violin, Stephen thoroughly enjoys visiting and photographing spots around … More »

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