Early start to holiday cheers students Heat prompts schools to close

September 04, 1993|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writer Staff writers Gary Gately and Carol L. Bowers contributed to this article.

Tens of thousands of students throughout Maryland had a shortened school day yesterday because the temperature soared into the upper 90s. In Baltimore, it tied a record high of 97 set nearly a century ago.

Last night, a band of violent thunderstorms moved through Carroll and Frederick counties, toppling trees and knocking out electrical power, state police said. A barn was blown down in the VTC Silver Run area of Carroll near the Pennsylvania line.

Bill Miller, a forecaster for the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, said the mercury hit 97 degrees at 1:55 p.m. yesterday at the Custom House in Baltimore, matching the high set for the date in 1898.

L Yesterday's high temperature at BWI was 95, Mr. Miller said.

"We should improve over the weekend, but with some possible storms Saturday and Sunday. Monday, Labor Day, is going to be a great day with blue skies and temperatures in the low to mid-80s," Mr. Miller said.

The sweltering heat and humidity came as good news to many students, who were given an opportunity to start their long holiday weekend a few hours earlier.

"We were jumping up and down, everybody at once," said Heather Bradford, describing the reaction in her sixth-grade home economics class at Diggs Johnson Middle School in Southwest Baltimore.

"Everybody jumped out of their seats when we heard" school was closing early, she said.

In the city, where about 90 of the 177 primary and secondary schools lack classroom air-conditioning, Superintendent Walter G. Amprey closed all schools at 1 p.m. An estimated 110,000 students attend city schools.

Other Maryland school systems that released students two hours early were Anne Arundel, Cecil, Caroline, Dorchester, Montgomery and Washington counties.

Schools had also closed early Thursday in Anne Arundel and Washington counties.

Devin Dennehy, principal of the Annapolis Middle School, which does not have air conditioning, had two words to describe what classrooms in his school had been like -- "very unpleasant."

"We've just had people walking out of here with sweat all over them," Mr. Dennehy said.

"The early dismissals have really helped."

Ralph Luther, director of operations and maintenance for the Anne Arundel County school system, said making a decision on whether to close schools early is difficult.

"Half the parents say, 'That's really dumb, my school has air conditioning,' while the other half of the parents are calling and saying 'It's 96 degrees and rising in my child's classroom, and why aren't you closing schools yet?' "

Mr. Luther said slightly less than half of Anne Arundel's 120 schools do not have air conditioning.

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