Schools admit defeat to snow 4 counties close until Tuesday

City, Carroll County delay decision on when students will return

Blizzard Of 1996

January 11, 1996|By Jean Thompson | Jean Thompson,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Tanya Jones, Anne Haddad, Mike Bowler and Mary Maushard contributed to this article.

Throughout the Baltimore region, public school superintendents admitted defeat yesterday: Snow has forced most schools to close for the rest of the week.

In Harford, Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties, classes will not resume until Tuesday. The national holiday marking Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday will be observed Monday.

Baltimore City and Carroll County school officials will decide today whether students will return tomorrow. Much will depend on the weather.

"We're having difficulty with some of the [snow removal] equipment, and we haven't gotten to all the schools yet," city Superintendent Walter G. Amprey said.

Additionally, some of the city's 182 schools are being used by police as temporary command posts during the snow emergency, he said.

In the surrounding region, the situation isn't much better. Crews just can't clear all the snow from the streets and sidewalks leading to hundreds of schools in time for classes to resume this week, superintendents said.

Plows had made some headway by yesterday, but another storm is forecast for tonight or tomorrow. Winter has won this war.

"We don't believe we can get buses in to many of the [residential] developments," said Howard County's Schools Superintendent Michael Hickey.

Cul de sacs a concern

"We're concerned about the areas with cul de sacs -- the buses cannot get in and get turned around to get out. In fact, our contractors say they aren't sure they can get all the buses out of their yards.

"We hope we can open on Tuesday," he said with an uneasy laugh.

"We just got in to all the buildings today for the first time," said Anthony G. Marchione, interim superintendent in Baltimore County, "and we've concluded there's no way we can get the faculty and students into the schools until next week."

When students do return, the first semester will be extended one week, until Jan. 26. Report cards will be distributed Feb. 9, rather than Feb. 2, said Baltimore County schools spokesman Donald Mohler.

In Anne Arundel County, roads may be open for cars and buses, but that doesn't mean that they are safe for thousands of students who walk to school, said Carol S. Parham, superintendent of schools.

"It is going to be a long haul," she said.

This week, she believes, the children will be safest at home.

For some parents stranded with them, for students who already are bored and for teachers who would rather be working, the unexpected vacation has become almost a nightmare.

Cabin fever hits

Told that school likely would not resume until Tuesday, Vanessa White of Baltimore asked, "Are you serious? I'm getting cabin fever -- please say you are making this up. This is a joke, right?"

Ms. White and her mother, Jannie White, of Federal Hill are raising four children who attend Baltimore City schools. Their little army is often expanded by three cousins who live across the street and visit frequently.

That's seven children, ages 2 through 16, in the house at once.

"I've gone through about 4 or 5 pounds of cold cuts and six loaves of bread this week," Ms. White said, sighing.

"It seems like they are always hungry. I've lost count of the gallons of juice. I served a pasta dish for dinner, and I had to cut all the pieces up and make every piece the same size so they wouldn't argue."

Wilbur C. Giles, facilities director for Baltimore City, said that the grounds of about a fourth of the schools there have been cleared sufficiently to allow classes to resume. His forces are attacking schools in clusters, he said, and yesterday was the first day since Sunday in which significant headway was made.

Mr. Giles said that crews would work all weekend, and "barring another snowfall, we should be completely ready by next week."

Throughout the region, many of the schools of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore will follow the lead of local public schools and close until Monday or Tuesday, said Ronald J. Valenti, schools superintendent.

Overtime costs

The greatest cost to most school districts during the extended closing has been overtime. Several superintendents said they had lent their maintenance crews to their municipalities to help clear roads.

Howard County schools also assigned staff who normally clean inside buildings to work outside, helping to remove snow.

In Baltimore City, Mr. Giles said, a "ballpark figure" for the projected cost of overtime and extra equipment is $200,000.

Several superintendents were reluctant to estimate, because much will depend on the weather to come.

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