Anne Arundel County public school students won't be penalized for being late or absent Friday, after officials went ahead with an on-time opening despite dicey weather.
Dozens of crashes were reported on roads across Anne Arundel Friday morning, as drivers navigated surprisingly slick and icy roads. Hundreds of parents took to the school system's Facebook page to complain about the decision to open schools on time.
"We absolutely regret the way it ended up this morning. The timing could not have been worse," said Bob Mosier, a spokesman for the school system.
Mosier said school officials made the decision by 4:45 a.m. to open schools on time when roads were expected to stay safe and the ice was expected to remain north of Anne Arundel.
But by the time conditions worsened after 5 a.m., it was too late to reverse course, Mosier said.
Anne Arundel has 600 bus routes ferrying 57,000 children to schools, with pickups as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 9 a.m. Once the busses started rolling, it was impossible to adjust the schedule, Mosier said.
Anne Arundel's transportation system is countywide, with busses running multiple routes to high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, specialty schools and half-day technology classes, Mosier said. Some students are bussed across the county to magnet and charter schools.
"It's really complex and presents some challenges," he said.
As a result of Friday morning's problems, parents who send their children to school late or keep them home "will be held harmless," school officials said in a letter that was emailed to parents and posted on social media. Students will be marked with an excused absence, meaning they will be allowed to make up work.
Interim schools superintendent Mamie Perkins has asked her staff to see if there are ways to build flexibility into the transportation network so that it could be possible in the future to change the decision on school delays or closings later in the morning, Mosier said.
Police officers, firefighters and paramedics were busy Friday morning dealing with crashes and mishaps across Anne Arundel.
Between 5:45 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., police responded to more than 70 crashes in the county. Crashes with multiple cars piling up were reported on the ramp from Route 50 onto Rowe Boulevard in Annapolis and on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway at Route 198 in Laurel. There also was an overturned vehicle on Route 214 at Muddy Creek Road in Edgewater.
"The majority were fender-benders and vehicles sliding off the road," said Justin Mulcahy, a police spokesman.
Firefighters and paramedics were called out to at least 30 of the more than 70 accidents, as well as to assist several people who were injured falling on ice, said Division Chief Keith Swindle, a fire spokesman.