Pupils slip back to school 72,000 students return after break caused by heavy snow

January 17, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Dennis O'Brien, Ellen Gamerman and TaNoah V. Sterling contributed to this article.

Streets narrowed by mountains of snow, combined with unshoveled walks, made yesterday's return to school an adventure for motorists and pedestrians sharing the asphalt.

On the first day back after an unexpected 10-day vacation for nearly 72,000 students in Anne Arundel County, a fire official showed up at one school to investigate a fire code violation and police were directing traffic at other schools. Youngsters were unable to resist another slide down a story-high snow heap, while some students were disoriented after the long break.

Still, county school officials said the day went as well as expected with a starting time delayed two hours.

"We didn't have any major problems. I am not saying to you that it was perfect. But we have so far had a reasonable day," said Superintendent Carol S. Parham.

In the metropolitan area, the safety of children getting to and from school was of deep concern. Most other school systems started an hour or two late to allow rush hour traffic to thin and let students avoid a morning walk in the dark. In Howard County, a 14-year-old Oak land Mills High School student was hit by a car as he walked home yesterday. He suffered minor injuries.

The fire official paid a visit to Anne Arundel's Benfield Elementary School yesterday morning, after parent Debbie Moore called to complain about a fire code violation. "There were big drifts at the kindergarten end of the school," she said. "Those doors were pinned shut."

Paths to the doors were cleared by midafternoon, and no citations were issued, said a Fire Department spokesman.

"That did not exist only at Benfield, but at several of the schools, maybe even most of the schools," Ralph A. Luther, director of facilities management, acknowledged yesterday.

Crews worked yesterday to clear doors and also devote their energy to what many homeowners were doing -- clearing out storm drains.

"The instructions I have given the school custodial staffs is to get up on the roofs and get those drains cleared out," Mr. Luther said. "If we don't, we are going to have an awful lot of leaks."

Around the county, unshoveled walks angered parents. They said streets were not plowed wide enough for both children and cars, making it unsafe to leave students at bus stops. Furious parents drove their children to schools, where melted snow left ice on parking lots and roads that had been cleared. "My residential area is not prepared for having kids out at the bus stop and walking," said Esther G. Parker, who drove her son to Four Seasons Elementary School in Crofton.

By law, the county can issue warnings to anyone who has not shoveled a sidewalk. The county then can do the shoveling, bill the homeowner and issue a fine of up to $10.

But that won't happen.

"I don't think it is prudent use of our public works staff at this time," said county spokeswoman Lisa I. Ritter. Crews are continuing to widen streets, spread sand and chemicals and stock supplies, she said.

A two-hour delay in school openings will continue all week. Kindergarten and preschool will not be held, said Kenneth Lawson, associate superintendent for instruction and student services. The Maryland Functional Writing Test, which was to be given last week, is being administered today and Thursday. The Maryland Test of Citizenship, originally set for tomorrow, has been rescheduled for Feb. 8.

Some middle school teachers were concerned that their students might have lost their focus last week and will struggle on the writing exam.

"Any time you have a break with students, teachers will tell you how difficult it is to get back into the pattern," said Sarah McGowan, the principal at Bates Middle School in Annapolis.

Josh Seago, 13, a Bates student, wanted more time to study. While he hoped to prepare for the exam in class yesterday, he couldn't because the two-hour delay shortened his language arts period to only 10 minutes.

"We knew all the stuff before, but we kind of lost track of what we were doing," said Josh, a seventh-grader. "I guess I'm a little nervous."

Other students were disoriented.

"I didn't know what day it was," said Daniel Sienkiewich, 12, a Bates Middle School seventh-grader. "It was strange to be back."

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