Principal Susan Evans considers those first-day rituals very important. "Within seconds when a child enters a classroom they are sizing up who the teacher is and how they are going to function in the classroom," she said. If the day doesn't go well, students leave feeling it is going to be a long year.

Students come to Ridgely from 16 different elementaries; the school does a lot of team-building exercises with sixth-graders.

Evans has continued coming to the school despite the lack of power, although it is hard to get much done without a computer.

"I have been working on my agendas for meetings, straightening my office and finding things I thought were lost," she said. She has also been cleaning out the refrigerator.

In Anne Arundel County, where the first day of school was interrupted by an earthquake last week, students had a head start compared to their peers in other counties.

"There won't be anything more memorable to a school opening," said Kevin Maxwell, the county school superintendent, who joked that people have been asking whether the plague and locusts will show up next.

Maxwell said educators "have to pick up where you are and try to catch up."

Howard school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan called the delays "familiar territory," and said the county was "making adjustments in the teaching schedule as we would any time we've missed a day or two during a quarter, to adjust to lost instruction time."

The county's last closed school, Atholton High, opened Thursday. Caplan said the county plans to extend the school year by one day, with the last day of school coming on June 11.

Arundel school officials said they will ask the Maryland State Department of Education about a waiver of the 180-day requirement, if necessary.

Arundel, Baltimore City and Baltimore County have days built into their calendar to cover the missed days, barring any other weather-related closings.

"Like most," said Charles Herndon, spokesman for Baltimore County schools, "we're keeping our fingers crossed for a mild winter, and no snow."

Baltimore Sun Reporter Joe Burris contributed to this article.

erica.green@baltsun.com.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com