County schools deal with lost storm days

Officials may seek waiver from state administrators to shorten school year

February 01, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County school officials might ask the state to waive its 180-day school calendar requirement in an effort to deal with the mounting snow-related school shutdowns.

The decision came after Sunday's ice and snow storm closed schools for a seventh day yesterday, and prompted a two-hour late school opening today, along with the cancellation of morning kindergarten, said county schools spokeswoman Jane Doyle.

County students and teachers will likely lose the Feb. 21 Presidents Day holiday and a spring vacation day April 20 because of last week's surprise nor'easter.

The four emergency closing days allowed in the Anne Arundel schools' academic calendar were consumed by shutdowns from the Jan. 20 snowstorm and by Hurricane Floyd in September.

Finding lost time

At its meeting tomorrow, Doyle said the school board is expected to confirm the lost holidays and discuss how to handle future weather-related closings.

Options include canceling more holidays and extending the school year, which calls for the last day of student attendance June 13.

Doyle said school officials are also considering applying to the state Department of Education for a waiver to shorten the year's 180-day school calendar.

"We might apply for a waiver as we did four years ago," she said.

In order to receive a waiver, Doyle said school systems must show a "good faith effort" to make up the lost days, such as canceling holidays.

Waivers have precedent

In 1996, the state Board of Education cut two days from the academic calendar to help school systems account for time lost to the blizzard that year.

State School Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick plans to discuss with state board members ways to expedite anticipated requests for waivers, said state Assistant Superintendent Ronald A. Peiffer.

"We're discovering that everybody was off two days last week, and a number [of school systems] were affected by Hurricane Floyd in the fall," Peiffer said.

Under state regulations, school systems can apply for a waiver if the governor declares a state of emergency. That condition was met after last week's snowstorm.

State ready for requests

Peiffer said he expects the waiver requests during the next two weeks, and noted that "we have six more weeks of potential closures." Waivers are granted on a county-by-county basis.

Academic calendars across the state vary widely in the number of emergency days allowed each year.

This year, for example, Baltimore schools included three emergency closing days in its calendar, and Baltimore County schools allotted seven days.

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