Snow days contingency plans studied Spring break delay, longer hours weighed to make up lost time

June 6 is firm as last day

Final board decision, to be made later, depends on weather

December 31, 1995|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Snow, sleet and freezing rain might give students a few more days off this winter, but one thing will not change.

School will end June 6.

A year ago, the school board adopted the current year's calendar, which has three snow days built in. Those days were used even before winter break started. But there are two contingency plans.

If school is called off for a fourth day because of bad weather, students will start spring break one day later, on April 5, Good Friday, instead of April 4.

And if students lose five or more days, the second plan kicks into action -- a longer school day.

How long, and how many days, has not been determined, said Dr. Gary Dunkleberger, assistant superintendent. But in February, the Maryland Board of Education granted a waiver that would allow the schools to make up the time, minute for minute, with longer days if necessary.

Dr. Dunkleberger and several other administrators will meet to hash out the details when school resumes Tuesday -- weather permitting.

"They're calling for snow Monday and Tuesday," Dr. Dunkleberger said late last week.

The final decision won't be made until later in the winter, when administrators know how many days will have to be made up, if any.

"We don't want to make it too early," he said. "We will make it early enough so there's ample time to apprise parents what the change is going to be. It will not be something that's sprung on people at the last minute."

In 1994, the school system made up six snow days by adding 50 minutes to each day for 42 days in the spring. Students arrived 20 minutes earlier and stayed 30 minutes later.

"If we don't miss that large number of days this year, we'll have more flexibility. We might choose to not do 50 minutes," Dr. Dunkleberger said.

Requirement enforced

Several students, parents and teachers would have preferred not to make up the days at all two years ago, but that wasn't an option. State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and the state board of education made it clear they would not waive the 180-day requirement.

And nearly everyone was against lengthening the school year. In addition to the heat, disruption of vacation plans and general distractions of summer, lengthening the year would have clashed with graduation plans. Because the five high schools hold their graduations at Western Maryland College, they have to book the dates ahead of time.

By the end of the school year, several teachers and students said the extended day was tiring, but many liked it. At least one elementary school teacher said then she would like to see the school day lengthened permanently.

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