Vacation is cut short for some students Series of bomb threats leads 6 schools to hold makeup day tomorrow

November 23, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

School is out tomorrow and the rest of this week as nearly all 72,000 Anne Arundel County students take an extended Thanksgiving break, except for those in the six schools hit hardest by bomb threats since September.

Arundel has closed schools for a week at Thanksgiving -- the only system in the metropolitan area to do so -- since 1992 to allow for parent-teacher conferences and teacher training.

But this year, schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham canceled one day of the vacation for those schools to make up lost time. And the students are taking the news hard.

"My classmates aren't too happy about it," said Mona Al-Saffy, an eighth-grader at Old Mill Middle School North, one of three in a complex in Millersville where 11 bomb threats have been received since September.

"I know a lot of people who aren't going to be in school that day because their parents couldn't adust their plans," she said.

Mona's family changed travel arrangements so she would be in town for the makeup day. Initially, they were going to Manhattan on Saturday; now they're leaving Tuesday.

"I guess it's kind of fair because we missed so much time. So I guess we have to make it up sometime," she said.

The school system has logged 51 bomb threats -- all false alarms -- since September, and schools that have received at least six will be in session tomorrow. It takes about two hours each time someone calls in a bomb threat to evacuate the buildings; get firefighters, bomb-sniffing dogs and police to check the school; then get students back in classes.

Seven of those threats were phoned in to Lothian Elementary in South County, making that the only elementary school to be open tomorrow.

Student no-shows?

Many students there probably won't show up if they have made plans to travel, said Nancy Wooddell, chairwoman of that school's Citizen's Advisory Committee. "Anyone that's planning anything is just going to do it anyway," she said.

John Aylor, who has children at Lothian, said he will send them to school even though he is sure they would rather not go.

Neither would high school students.

"I was a little upset," said Kim Queen, a 16-year-old junior at Southern High School, which has received 11 bomb threats this year and a dozen last school year.

Kim plans to get her driver's license Tuesday and has a doctor's appointment Wednesday, which left tomorrow to hang out with friends. Now that's off.

Not punishment

"I thought it was unfair they were taking away vacation to punish just a small part of the student body," she said.

Nevertheless, she would rather make up the time now than at the end of the school year.

"I'm going to go ahead and go," she said, but "some students aren't going just to try to make a point about taking [vacation] days away from us."

Parham did not slice a day off the vacation to punish those who made the bomb threats, said schools spokeswoman Jane W. Doyle.

"Her intention was to make up the lost time," Doyle said.

Most parents who called the superintendent's office said they favor the makeup day to stave off bomb-threats, although several have called it useless as a deterrent, she added.

Activities for younger set

Some principals say younger students who still have tomorrow -- and the rest of the week -- off will be kept busy even though many parents will be at work.

At Meade Heights Elementary School on Fort Meade, a day-care center that many parents use will be open full days tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday.

While parents attend parent-teacher conferences at Mayo Elementary in Mayo, students can browse through a book fair.

About half of the 20 students who go to before- and after-school care at Kids Place, a trailer adjacent to Annapolis Elementary School, also will go full days tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Pub Date: 11/23/97

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