It's payback time at area schools for those deep-freeze days )) of ice and snow -- and the price is heat and humidity.
Many students and teachers whose school systems extended sessions further into June to make up for cold-weather closings will be laboring this week in 90-degree-plus temperatures, thanks to a late-spring heat wave.
In Harford County, where classes originally were scheduled to end last week, schools were dismissed two hours early yesterday because of heat.
The irony was not lost on Claire Parker, an art teacher at Bel Air Middle School.
"We wouldn't even be here this week if it weren't for the snow days last winter," she said. "Some students have a short attention span anyway, especially after lunch when they have a full stomach. The heat just makes it worse."
This week, educators and students facing a longer June not only in Harford, but in the Baltimore and in Carroll, Anne Arundel and Howard counties, may be thinking about what might have been -- or daydreaming of snowballs and swimming holes.
A Bermuda high off the Atlantic coast will pump a steady stream of heat and humidity into Maryland all week, the National Weather Service said yesterday. And though it won't affect classrooms, the forecast for next week suggests more of the same.
Call it the flip side of winter, perhaps a reminder of the celebrated "greenhouse effect" after more than a dozen ice storms that may have helped people forget about the threat of global warming. In schools such as Bel Air Middle, which lacks air-conditioning, the concept of global warming might have been easier to teach yesterday.
To fight the swelter, Mrs. Parker keeps the lights off and the blinds drawn in her large classroom, where three ceiling fans whir. Still, she said, students sometimes argue over who gets to sit under a fan, and it's hard for any of them to be creative when they're so uncomfortable.
Bel Air Middle is the only middle school in Harford without air conditioning, said school system spokesman Donald Morrison. All county's high schools have at least partial air conditioning, but 15 of the 29 elementaries do without. One of them is the Wakefield building of Homestead-Wakefield Elementary in Bel Air.
"Basically, the kids just sit there with sweat pouring off them," said Maureen Mills, a first-grade teacher there. "They're more concerned about getting up and getting a drink or putting their heads down on the desk than anything else. It's real hard to be attentive in this humidity."
"One of the problems with this building is that it retains so much heat," said Assistant Principal Deborah Freels. Every classroom in the school has a wall of windows, but only two or three of them open. Each classroom also has an outside door and a ceiling fan.
But none of it seemed to help yesterday, and at 1:30 p.m., children poured out of the school to go home -- some, no doubt, to snowballs or pools.
Although the school year was extended in many localities, some students will be going home early in the next few days -- the result of planned half-day sessions as teachers administer final exams and tally year-end grades.
Yesterday was the last full day for Baltimore County schools, which are scheduled to close 2 1/2 hours early through Friday, when the school year ends.
"Wednesday, Thursday and Friday should be fine because we're dismissing two hours early anyway," said Jane Doyle, a school system spokeswoman in Anne Arundel.
The school year would have ended today in Anne Arundel, had winter not intervened. Students will be saying farewell on Friday, but the last working day for teachers there is next Wednesday. National Weather Service meteorologist Fred Davis said the weather may be uncomfortable but is not unusual for June -- and temperatures are unlikely to break the records that range from 95 to 100 degrees for the next few days.
The Bermuda high "is just setting up a little earlier than normal," Mr. Davis said. "Summer's coming early -- about a week ahead of time."
And that was just fine with 14-year-old Erica Burr of Columbia, who was one of the first customers after the 2 p.m. opening of the Crazy Ape snowball stand on Oakland Mills Road.
"I like the heat," she said. "I'm from Texas."