WASHINGTON – Most Maryland public school students can expect to be sitting in class a few extra days this summer to make up for several recent school closures.
With another school day canceled by weather in much of the state Friday, school systems had used up the last of the snow days in this year’s calendar and were starting to look at extending the school year.
Because students are required to be in school 180 days a year, school districts generally add four or five days to their calendars to accommodate weather closures, but recent winter weather and last fall’s Hurricane Isabel have proved to be too much.
Only three school districts — Baltimore City, Kent County and Caroline County — have a “zero balance” and do not have any days to make up. Most other schools are just hoping for no more snow or ice.
“Right now, this is doable. We are hoping this is the end of it,” said Patti Caplan, spokeswoman for Howard County schools. “It’s frustrating. I know, even my daughter wanted to go to school.”
Even Baltimore County, which had built seven extra days into its calendar, will have to extend school at least one day into the summer — as of Friday.
“Had we not had today, we would have been fine,” said Charles Herndon, a Baltimore County schools spokesman.
Eleven school districts closed Friday and seven opened late due to icy weather. Only five districts on the Eastern Shore opened on time.
While most districts will tack on a few days in June, others are considering cutting into spring break or putting President’s Day back on the school calendar. Prince George’s County is one of those districts looking at alternatives other than lengthening the school year.
“We try to avoid going late into June because not all the schools have air conditioning,” said Lynn McCawley, a spokeswoman with Prince George’s County schools.
Harford County schools originally scheduled spring break for April 8-12, but students now will be in school April 8 to make up for a snow day, said spokesman Don Morrison.
While President’s Day is a state holiday, school districts can ask the state school board for a waiver, said Bill Reinhard, a state Department of Education spokesman. He said the superintendent has received several requests for waivers, and the school board could make a decision next week.
Reinhard and county school officials said getting a calendar waiver for President’s Day after such bad weather is usually pretty easy.
The state school board already granted a waiver for one day off during Hurricane Isabel, which means schools will not have to make up that day.
For the most part, county school boards are just beginning to revise school calendars.
In Howard County, Caplan said the board is meeting to explore options Thursday.
“They will wait to make a decision to see what kind of situation we are at at the end of February,” she said. “It’s a little early to be making too many firm steps.”
Baltimore County’s Herndon agreed, saying the school board is waiting until the “bulk of the inclement weather season is over” before deciding whether to extend into June, cut into spring break or use other holidays.
-30- CNS 02-06-04