Area schools putting a chill on summer vacation plans Play now, pay later: The weekend blizzard and yesterday's additional snowfall are leading some districts to add a few makeup days to the end of the academic year.

Blizzard Of 1996

January 10, 1996|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF Staff writers Howard Libit, Mary Maushard and Anne Haddad contributed to this article.

Hello, snow. Goodbye, summer.

Thanks to the double-whammy of a blizzard Sunday and more snow yesterday, area schools remain closed -- and most are chipping away at summer vacation to make up for lost time.

In Baltimore City and the five surrounding counties, officials had planned for two to four days of inclement weather.

In hindsight, they now say, most gambled and lost. Some had even used up their scheduled snow days well before the blizzard's arrival.

Anne Arundel County is one place where summer vacation remains intact -- and it is threatened there.

Superintendent Carol S. Parham had padded her academic calendar with four snow days. On Monday and Tuesday, she used her second and third; today is her last.

No decision has been made about making up additional closings; in the past, summer vacation was delayed, she said. "It's a no-win situation no matter what we do."

After the 1994 ice storms, the state changed its education

regulations to help school systems make up bad-weather days.

No longer is the state requirement based on 180 days of classes; instead, districts must provide a set number of hours of instruction. For elementary schools, it is 1,080 hours; for middle and high schools, 1,170.

This allows localities to negotiate with unions to extend school days rather than trim summer vacation. Each district, however, has its own way of coping:

* As of today, students in Baltimore County will lose four days of summer vacation. School officials had scheduled two snow days, which had been used well before Sunday's storm. The school board voted to make up lost time in June, but that was before the blizzard.

"If this goes on, school systems will be asking the state Department of Education for relief, for permission to extend school days," predicted Anthony G. Marchione, interim superintendent.

* Yesterday, Howard County students lost their President's Day holiday, Feb. 19. Counting today's cancellation, they have also lost four days of summer -- and likely will lose more.

County schools will not add more than six days to the end of the school year, according to the district's calendar. If there are any more closings, the county will add hours to spring school days, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey says.

* Harford County schools had padded the calendar with four snow days, but the last one was used Monday. Yesterday's closing will delay summer vacation by a day; today's closing will cost students their President's Day holiday.

"If we should need any others, we'll begin to take them from June," said Deputy Superintendent Albert F. Seymour.

* Carroll County had used its three snow days before the blizzard. Students and staff will make up Monday's closing by starting spring break a day late -- April 5. Closings yesterday and today -- and any more to come -- will lead to extended school hours later in the spring.

School officials decided to leave summer alone. After ice storms two years ago, Carroll added 50 minutes to school days during the spring, with qualified success.

"I think most people saw that as the better option to extending the year," said Linda Murphy, president of the Carroll County Council of PTAs.

Her daughter, Jessica, 14, a ninth-grader at Liberty High School, prefers longer school days to delayed vacation.

"By the end of the year, you just want it to be over," Jessica said. Of more immediate concern to students, she said, is the heavy schedule of tests in January and February: the state writing test and citizenship tests, and midterm exams.

This week, ninth-graders statewide missed the Maryland Writing Test. School systems must reschedule it for the next available three-day stretch of clear- weather school days and right now, it's hard to predict when that might be, superintendents said.

* For weeks this winter, Baltimore City was stingy with its three snow days, holding classes even when schools in nearby counties were closed.

Parents complained, but the tactic paid off: Yesterday, Superintendent Walter G. Amprey used the last of his three snow days.

The city school board now must decide how to make up any additional lost time, such as today's closing, said schools spokesman Nat Harrington.

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