School closing leaves parents scrambling Day-care alternatives often hard to come by

February 16, 1997|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF

Howard County school officials sent the word out at 5 a.m. Friday: Due to icy, snow-covered roads, classes would start two hours late.

But by 7 a.m., county schools were closed for the day, leaving parents scurrying to find an alternative source of day care for their children.

"It's a big inconvenience, is what this is," Julia White of Clarksville said Friday morning as she shuttled her children, Evan, Drew and Anna, through The Mall in Columbia. "I had to take off from work today because I couldn't coordinate my schedule with my neighbors' on such short notice.

"There's a big difference in two hours late and a whole day off," she continued, noting that no other school system in the Baltimore-Washington area closed its doors to students that day. "I wish they would just make up their minds, and let us know."

Sydney Cousin, associate superintendent of Howard schools, said the decision to close school Friday came after members of the county's transportation staff determined that roads -- especially in rural western Howard County -- were too dangerous for school buses and general traffic.

"Many of the roads were icy, slippery and covered with snow at 5 a.m. Friday morning," said Robert Lazarewicz, executive director of operations for Howard schools, of the original two-hour postponement.

"The transportation staff had been on the roads since 3 a.m., and by 7, the roads were still unplowed," he said, explaining that the fact that the road conditions were not improving led to the decision to close for the day.

Lazarewicz said that, while school officials recognized their obligation to working and single parents who need as much notice as possible for school closings, they did not feel comfortable letting children travel on the roads.

"It's easy to second-guess yourself at 11 a.m.," he said.

Ellicott City resident Elizabeth Paterson, who took the day off from work to watch over her two children, said parents have to learn to be flexible.

"I know it must be a difficult decision to close schools, but Howard County is such a rural area," Paterson said. "I pretty much go with what they say."

Although tomorrow is the President's Day holiday, Howard County students will attend classes because one school day has been lost to snow this year. School officials said Friday's closing means that dismissal for the year will be delayed until June 11.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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