ANNAPOLIS – Four days after nearly 4 feet of snow fell on parts of his county, Garrett Schools Superintendent Wendell Teets said all he can do was take it one day at a time.
But even one day has become a luxury for Teets and other school officials in Maryland who have used up their allotment of snow days for the year.
Even before this week’s major snowstorm canceled classes across Maryland, many school systems were thinking of trimming spring breaks or extending the school year so they could get the mandatory 180 days of instruction before summer.
The latest storm pushed most schools well over their allotments, leaving many officials no choice but to ask the Maryland State Board of Education to bail them out by waiving the 180-day requirement. Otherwise, students in many counties could find themselves in class until the end of June.
“I would expect there to be a number of waiver requests (this year),” said Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the state Department of Education.
But Reinhard said that while State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick plans to ask the state board to grant waivers for school days lost during this week’s state of emergency, some districts “may not get back every day that they missed.”
For many school districts, any help from the state would be welcome.
With walkways heaped with snow and some roads barely passable, Teets said his schools will stay closed all week, bringing Garrett’s tally of missed school days to 14, nine more than the number allotted.
Teets said the county made up one of those days by canceling a teacher in- service day earlier in the year, but Garrett is still eight days behind.
Baltimore County officials also said their schools are not likely to reopen until Monday, which will bring their total of snow days this year to 10. The county build seven snow days into this year’s school calendar, said spokeswoman Marjorie Hampson.
Carroll County schools allotted four snow days and have already used eight, leaving Superintendent Charles Ecker to recommend that his board ask state officials for a waiver.
Montgomery County, like Carroll, built four snow days into its calendar this year, but classes have been canceled nine times, said spokesman Brian Porter. That means students could be in class through the third week of June without a state waiver.
“We’re literally talking about tons of snow per school,” Porter said of the situation in Montgomery. “Schools are still trying to be dug out.”
Howard County set aside five days for snow but has used nine, thanks to this week’s closings. The academic year already has been extended until June 19, and spokeswoman Anna Gable said officials have shied away from shortening spring break in the past.
“We are in a quandary,” she said.
Reinhard said the state granted a blanket waiver to counties after a heavy snowstorm in 1996, excusing two missed days of classes. But he warned “it’s not a foregone conclusion” the same will happen in 2003.
Many still hold out hope.
“Sidewalks and sight lines and all kinds of things are a problem,” said Don Morrison, spokesman for Harford County Public Schools, which has announced nine closings, six more than planned. Morrison said school employees are responsible for maintaining more than 66 acres of snow-covered parking lots and 23 miles of driveway.
“Nobody cleans those for us,” Morrison said. “(And) somewhere, beneath five feet in drifts, we have sidewalks.”