Maryland school systems close to running out of snow days

Liz Bowie
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

With six weeks left until the arrival of spring, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties can close their schools only one more day because of bad weather before they have to begin adjusting school calendars.

Baltimore school administrators already pushed the end of the school year back by one day, ending it on June 15 instead of the 14th. The city would now need to trim days from spring break or keep schools open on Feb. 16, which was scheduled for teacher training.

State law requires Maryland public schools to be in session for 180 days a year. School systems have needed to comply with an order by Gov. Larry Hogan that went into effect last fall requiring schools to start after Labor Day and end by June 15. The move was made to lengthen summer vacation season and help Ocean City businesses that rely on vacationing families and beachgoers for most of their revenue.

But shortening the time period that schools can open has made it more difficult for school systems to accommodate spring break and various holidays as well as professional development days that used to be in their calendars when schools started in mid-August and closed in mid-June.

As a result, many school systems had to tighten their calendars and now have fewer days available to shut down for bad weather and still meet the 180-day rule.

Baltimore County schools have used four of the five days built into the calendar for closing schools for snow or inclement weather, said Diana Spencer, a spokeswoman for the school system.

On Wednesday, the Howard County school system was closed because of ice and used up the last bad weather day it had built into its calendar, spokesman Brian Bassett said. If bad weather requires another closure the county could eliminate a professional development day for teachers on May 18 and require students to come to school. The change would require approval by the Howard County school board.

Anne Arundel County has one day left on its calendar allowing for a bad weather closure before it must restructure the calendar. Anne Arundel built in three days and has used two days. If weather closes school for two more days, the county will ask for a state waiver to change its calendar, said Bob Mosier, a spokesman for Anne Arundel schools.

Carroll County has closed on four of the six days allotted for weather-related closings in its school calendar, and Harford has used four of seven days it set aside for inclement weather.

Dorchester, Talbot, Wicomico and St. Mary’s counties already have sought state waivers.

The Maryland state school board voted last week to allow Dorchester, Talbot and St. Mary’s to open on Presidents Day or the Monday after Easter which are state holidays.

St. Mary’s County asked the board to waive the requirement that school be in session for 180 days. The request was turned down.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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