Baltimore County's Snowblowers

March 25, 1994

For insight into the tumult that has enveloped Baltimore County schools over the past year or two, look no farther than the flap over making up missed snow days. Every school system in the central part of the state has had to devise a plan to absorb two weeks' worth of instructional days missed because of this winter's storms. The chore wasn't easy anywhere. But most jurisdictions found a way without much fussing and fighting.

Enter Baltimore County, where we could have predicted a month ago that this fairly routine decision would become a teeth-gnasher. For one thing, Baltimore County has long been a highly political place and the recent recession has caused a lot of pent-up pain and anger.

Then there are the bomb-throwers who lead the county teachers union. While several area subdivisions extended their school days as an alternative to making up the lost time at the end of June, the irascible president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County threatened that a longer school day might violate the school board's contract with the teachers. Any reasonable person would see this winter caused an emergency situation people are trying to make the best of; TABCO would be held in better stead by teachers and the general public if it hewed to more serious education issues.

When the county polled its schools about alternative make-up plans, they split right down the middle, 68-68. The Board of Education, taking cues from student board member Julia Grossman, ultimately decided to add 30 minutes each morning and 15 minutes each afternoon, to compensate for five lost days. (Seven other days have been made up by trimming holidays and spring vacation.)

We agree with the premise that the 180-day school year is a necessary minimum for Maryland systems -- and we think Baltimore County's state legislators are wrong for trying to override the state school board and micromanage education. Any solution that respects the full school year is going to inconvenience someone this spring.

No one could conjure up a remedy that wards off the heat of late June, doesn't conflict with child care or after-school job schedules and covers all the lost school work to boot. Something has to give. Compromises have to be struck. The involved parties were permitted plenty of input. The Baltimore County teachers union leadership and others would do well to maintain their focus on more fundamental challenges to county schools rather than making a mountain of every snow hill.

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