Howard County schools were closed before opening bells rang yesterday, though a storm produced little ice or snow and turned to chilly rain by late morning.
The decision to close, announced just after 7 a.m., delighted most students and some teachers but sent many parents scrambling to find last-minute supervision for their children.
"I can't believe those knuckleheads in Howard County," said Glen Mazur, a postal worker who took a vacation day to look after his two elementary school-age children. "They called the whole day [off school], and my driveway was bone dry. Not a drop of anything."
The decision to call the snow day was largely a matter of timing, said school spokeswoman Patti Caplan.
Because school openings initially were postponed for two hours -- morning kindergarten was canceled -- the storm was expected to hit in the middle of what would have been the busiest hour for school buses, Caplan said.
"We were getting freezing precipitation in the western areas of the county and in the southeast," she said. "We thought we'd be right at the height of it delivering all the kids."
The decision to call the snow day pushes the last day of school, scheduled June 9, to June 10.
All Howard public school athletic games, practices and tournaments were canceled yesterday.
Inevitably, some students mistakenly turn up at school anyway, Caplan said.
In recent years, the increasing number of immigrant students in Howard, many of whom have limited English proficiency, has made it difficult to notify all students of closures, she said. School officials encourage Spanish-speaking parents to tune to Spanish-language radio station WILC, which broadcasts from Laurel.
Carroll and Anne Arundel schools also were closed. Schools in Baltimore and in Baltimore and Harford counties remained open.
Throughout Howard County, students slept late, lounged in front of the television and otherwise filled the day with mostly nonacademic activities.
At The Mall in Columbia, four preteen boys trailed Vivien Gugliotti, a homemaker from Ellicott City who looked after two young neighbors and a friend's child in addition to her son. The boys lingered over Nintendo games at Babbage's and planned to do more window shopping before going to the library.
"I would have been exercising today and running some errands," Gugliotti said. "I don't know if this weather is worth it to close the schools. I used to live in Connecticut -- you'd have to have a blizzard there to close the schools."
Said Mazur, who spent mid-day with his children -- Julia, 8, and Gregory, 10, of Pointers Run Elementary in Clarksville -- at Howard County's central library, "I'm from the Midwest, where it really snows."
But some praised the school system for taking precautions.
"I'm really happy when we take the time to delay school -- I think it's a really wise thing to do," said Marsha Holshue, an art teacher at Long Reach High.
"Five years ago, I was in a very severe accident because of a sudden freezing precipitation," she said. "I broke my neck hitting a school bus."
Holshue, her 10- and 13-year-old daughters in tow, stocked up on necklaces and earrings at The Silver Heron jewelry shop at the mall yesterday -- a jump start on the weekend sales, she said.
"I'm glad I could get here early," she said.
For Richard Raynor and Trey Jenkins, 11th-graders at Atholton High School, the free day gave them a chance to go to the mall and shop. They were joined by Mike Dowdy, who got the day off even though he is home-schooled.
"There are no girls here," Richard said. "It makes the mall not fun. What's the point of having a day off if the girls aren't here shopping?"
Pub Date: 1/16/98