Howard County School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey plans to extend the school day and year for struggling students at one elementary school in the county as part of a pilot effort to steer extra staff and resources to low-performing schools.

Hickey is scheduled to detail the effort today at a Board of Education meeting. School officials said they hoped Phelps Luck Elementary School in east Columbia would serve as a model for how the system wants to revamp its current "focus school" initiative, targeting schools with low test scores and other challenges. The changes at Phelps Luck would begin the next school year.

The pilot effort comes a week after the county learned it slipped from first to second place in the state based on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, a test given to third-, fifth-, and eighth-graders.

Phelps Luck is currently one of the county's 14 so-called focus schools receiving extra assistance. But its composite score--representing the percentage of students who scored "satisfactory"--fell from 48.5 last year to 43.6 this year. The county's average score for elementary schools was 59.6.

The state wants each school to have 70 percent of its students achieving satisfactory scores by December 2000.

Howard is the latest Washington area community to experiment with some form of an extended school day and year. Several charter schools in the District operate on longer school days, and the city runs one of the nation's largest summer school programs to help poor-performing students. In August, Timber Lane Elementary in Fairfax County became the first public school in the region to begin year-round classes in which students attend classes in nine-week stretches with three-week breaks.

Hickey could not be reached for comment yesterday on the Howard pilot. In a three-page report to school board members, he wrote that Phelps Luck was chosen based on a variety of factors, including "performance history, socioeconomic level, and leadership."

A third of Phelps Luck students are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals, and nearly 7 percent have a first language other than English.

Phelps Luck Assistant Principal Sana Wilson said the news, delivered to the staff yesterday, was received with enthusiasm.

"We're looking at it as a very positive step," she said. "We will welcome those extra resources and funds in order to help us."

Hickey said the additional cost for the program at Phelps Luck would be about $250,000, which would provide for extending the staff work year from 10 months to 11 months, extending the assistant principal's work year from 10 months to 12 months, adding a parent/community outreach position and providing more money for staff development. The figure does not include transportation costs, which haven't been determined.

The plan calls for transportation to be provided to those low-performing students who stay later in the day and longer in the year, but it isn't known how many students would do so. "That's going to have to be done at the teacher level, working with the parents and kids, when they do their assessments, probably at the end of this school year," school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan said.

Details of exactly how much longer the day and year would be haven't been worked out yet, either, Caplan said. In his report, Hickey said the commitment to the pilot program should be three to five years, but he expects to see results by the end of the first year.

Wilson said the program can only help her school. "There is work to be done," she said. "If a school has resources and funds to institute programs in addition to regular programming, there's no way to go but up."

CAPTION: Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said the program would cost $250,000.