Balto. County officials stand by decision to shut schools

Ice, half-day schedule led to move, they argue

January 25, 2003|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

Icy road conditions in northern Baltimore County early yesterday prompted the closing of the county's public schools, frustrating some parents who called the system to complain.

Although road conditions improved as the morning went on, school officials decided against delaying the start of the school day because students were already scheduled to attend only half a day for the end of the marking period.

"What are you going to do -- bring the kids, take them off the bus and put them back on?" asked Superintendent Joe A. Hairston.

Hairston added that schools may not have had enough time to feed students lunch before sending them home.

Baltimore County was the only system in the metropolitan area to close schools.

The decision to call off classes led some private schools in Baltimore city and county, which usually follow the lead of the public schools, to close for the day.

Diana Franz, assistant principal at the Institute of Notre Dame in Baltimore, said the school probably would have opened two hours late, but it couldn't be certain all families would listen to the radio or watch television in the morning.

"It was just a crazy sort of situation," Franz said.

Baltimore County school officials must decide whether to delay the start of the day or close schools by 5:30 a.m., when the first buses begin their journeys.

Early yesterday, officials received reports of ice on Baker School House, Bulls Sawmill, Gores Mill and Keeney Mill roads in the north-central part of the county, called the Hereford zone.

Ice was also reported on Interstate 795 near Franklin Boulevard, on Greenspring Avenue and in the Glyndon area in the northwestern part of the county, as well as on Fork Road and Long Green Pike in the northeast.

"Roughly the northern half of the county was experiencing some unsafe road conditions that precipitated the decision," said Charles A. Herndon, a school spokesman.

Herndon said parents in parts of the county unaffected by ice called system headquarters to complain about the closings, but officials did not want to risk student and staff safety.

"We recognize the imposition it made on many people," he said, "but for us it was a decision between risking the health and safety of our staff and students to get in a half-day of school or canceling school and using another one of our snow days."

The school system has two snow days left.

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