Sorry, kids, the rule is 180 days of school

February 11, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Mary Maushard, Andrea F. Siegel, Suzanne Loudermilk, Alisa Samuels and Anne Haddad contributed to this article.

Though some students have lost weeks of school to bad weather this year, members of the state Board of Education say they will resist pressure to waive the state's mandatory 180-day school year.

"It's a matter of principle," said Edward Andrews, school board vice president, echoing the view of state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick. "I think 180 days is minimum for American schoolchildren."

Board member Harry Shapiro agreed, saying it would take "substantially more than what we have now" -- perhaps the loss )) of two additional weeks -- before he would consider granting any type of waiver.

"At this point, given the days the schools have had to be closed, they can be made up on holidays, spring break or extending the school year," he said. "In parts of the country where areas are just as muggy and hot as Baltimore in the summer, they have school late into June and some as late as July."

Board member Edmonia Yates takes a similar position, saying she would oppose any blanket waiver covering every one of the state's school districts.

"If I had to lobby, I'd be on the other side," she said. "We'd increase the number of school days for students."

But Allison Cole, the board's sole student member, said that at a certain point the board should grant waivers.

"Ten to 15 days beyond mid-June, you lose students and their desire to be in school," she said, adding that the board should consider waiving the 180-day requirement for all school systems.

The debate comes almost a year after the board reluctantly granted waivers to six school districts, after last year's March blizzard pushed many school districts over their allotted number of snow days.

Dr. Grasmick has taken a tough stance this year, noting that there is no provision in state law for waiving the 180-day school year for every district.

"We have to place the highest priority on instructional time since we only require 180 days of school each year," she said yesterday.

In a meeting with local superintendents last week, Dr. Grasmick warned that they would find it difficult to receive waivers.

Already, some have scheduled makeup days during spring break, and in Carroll and Prince George's counties, students will attend school on Presidents Day, which had been scheduled as a holiday.

"I'm not going to even consider asking for a waiver until I see what happens during the course of February and March," said Carroll County School Superintendent R. Edward Shilling.

As of yesterday, Carroll schools had been closed nine days for bad weather. Three makeup days were built into the calendar, and students will make up other days by shortening spring break and sacrificing a professional day.

In other school districts as of yesterday:

* Baltimore students had lost seven days, although school officials had designated two days in this year's school calendar as snow days.

The school board recently approved an extension of the school year from June 10 to June 15 to make up three of the lost days, and now will have to tack on two additional days, said Nat Harrington, school spokesman.

Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said the city school system had no intention of seeking a state waiver but that could change if the deep freeze continues.

* Howard County students had lost seven days to bad weather, four more than the school system had reserved as snow days.

Earlier this week, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey warned parents that snow days would be made up at the end of the year. The last day had been scheduled for June 9, but was certain to be extended, he said.

* Harford County students had lost 11 days, the most to weather closings in the metropolitan area.

"It looks like June 13 would be the makeup day," said Albert F. Seymour, deputy superintendent of schools.

Four days had been set aside in the school calendar this year for inclement conditions.

Students will go to school Feb. 21 and 22, March 31, April 5 and June 10 to make up some of the lost days.

* Baltimore County had been out eight days as of yesterday, but had scheduled only two "snow days."

One day will be made up Friday, Feb. 18, which was to be the first day of a four-day Presidents Day holiday, although schools still will be closed Monday, Feb. 21, the federal holiday.

Four additional days will be made up during spring break, which had been scheduled to take place from March 28 through March 31. Schools will be closed Good Friday, April 1, and Easter Monday, April 4.

Additional days will be tacked on to the end of the year, which was to have ended June 17, said Superintendent Stuart Berger.

But Dr. Berger said several weeks ago that he was reluctant to ask for a waiver so early in the year, before the inclement weather is over and when there is time to make up some of the days.

* Anne Arundel schools had lost seven days, three more than the number school officials had built in to the school calendar.

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