Schools closed until Monday

Snowstorms throw education schedule into disarray

January 27, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Its calendar drifting with the snow, the Anne Arundel County school system is giving students the rest of the week off -- calling in only teachers on Friday for a repeatedly postponed work day to finish paperwork for end-of-quarter report cards.

The Friday closing for students may cost them and teachers a day of spring vacation, in addition to the Feb. 21 Presidents' Day holiday that has already been canceled.

Anne Arundel schools' four emergency closing days allowed in the academic calendar were consumed by shutdowns for the season's first significant snowstorm last week and for Hurricane Floyd in September.

This week, students attended classes on Monday. After a two-day break scheduled for teacher professional development sessions and time for grading, students were to return today and tomorrow.

It didn't happen.

The teachers-only days were postponed, then one was delayed indefinitely. Yesterday, school officials decided to call in teachers on Friday for their required work day -- the changes taking a toll of two days from the student schedule.

"It's been an extraordinary circumstance for us, and certainly the entire East Coast was caught by surprise," Arundel schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham said yesterday.

"The primary roads seem to be opening up nicely, but clearly there needs to be another day in terms of getting into the secondary roads -- at least another day," said Parham, who has been conferring with transportation, operations and maintenance supervisors on the opening and closing decisions.

Parham said a spring vacation day may be used to make up for the sixth lost day on Friday, but no final decision has been made. Another option would be extending the school year, which now calls for the last day of student attendance on Tuesday, June 13.

Last week's snow and Tuesday's surprise nor'easter came at a particularly difficult time, interfering with the dates scheduled for high school exams, budget public hearings and the teacher work days.

"Quite frankly, whether we want to accept it or not, we're not in charge of weather conditions," Parham said. "I'm sure anyone wouldn't have anticipated that we'd be closed two days because of the hurricane."

The decision to postpone the students' return until Monday -- weather permitting -- was made yesterday afternoon.

"Teachers have not had a chance to grade exams and calculate final grades for the semester," said school spokesman Michael Walsh.

Both professional days were originally scheduled for last week, and bumped because of snow.

School officials acknowledged that many parents may question the decision not to open tomorrow for students.

"Parents will look out the window and say, `I was able to get to the 7-Eleven, what's the problem,' " Walsh said. "But we have 20,000 walkers, and there's a lot of rural communities with one-way streets and no sidewalks."

The aftermath of this week's storm also prompted school officials to postpone tonight's public hearing on the superintendent's proposed 2001 budget. New dates for that event, and a public hearing that was to have been held on Tuesday -- have not been announced.

What's more, the school board's first workshop on Parham's budget proposal for the next school year -- planned for Jan. 20 -- has been rescheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 8 at the board headquarters at 2644 Riva Road in Annapolis. The workshop will focus on the proposed instructional budget, and a second workshop on Feb. 9 will take up the general operating budget.

For information and updates, check the Anne Arundel schools Web site at www.aacps.org or call 410-222-5000.

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