Harford County students to lose two days of spring break

Mother Nature messing with Harford County students' spring break plans

Already facing a shortened summer break thanks to the weather, Harford County Public Schools students and their parents will also have a shorter spring break to look forward to following last week's snowstorm.

The school system announced through its website that the days missed Thursday and Friday will be made up on Thursday, April 9 and Friday, April 10, what would have been the final two days of one of the longer scheduled spring breaks among Maryland public schools. Both days were scheduled as professional development days, when teachers and staff, but not students, would have been at school.

Students will still have off on Good Friday, April 3, and then Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday April 6, 7 and 8, provided there aren't any missed days before then. Good Friday and Easter Monday, April 6, are required off days by the state, but the school calendar identifies April 8 as a final potential make-up day.

After last week's three closings, Harford students have missed 10 days of classes because of snow, ice and cold. Eight make-up days were built into the end of this year's school calendar, meaning school will end for students on Friday, June 19.

"[Students] don't really have a long summer," Bel Air Elementary School parent Susan Kelly said Monday, while waiting to pick up her daughter. "They go back in August, and they're not even off for two months."

Kelly was putting her younger son in his stroller on East Gordon Street while she waited for her daughter, who is in kindergarten.

She said her family does not typically go away during spring break and usually makes summer vacation plans for late June or early July.

"It won't affect us too much, but I think it affects a lot of people's vacations, or work," Bel Air resident Jim Towle, whose son is in the first grade at Bel Air Elementary, said of the number of snow make-up days.

"You never know what they're going to do," he added about school officials.

Towle also empathized with parents who have had to rearrange their schedules to stay home with children when school is canceled.

"Luckily, I'm self-employed, so I can manage, but I don't know how other parents can do it," he said.

Neighboring Cecil County schools have been closed for eight days so far this year, and students will have to make up six of those days, as the other two were scheduled for professional development for faculty.

Schools will end June 16, a CCPS representative said Monday. Cecil County students have already lost what would have been their one day of spring break, April 2, which is being used as a make-up for one of the earlier missed days.

Baltimore County Public Schools have been closed for seven days, and officials said they have not taken any time away from spring break.

"Those are school system decisions when it comes to spring break," Bill Reinhard, a spokesperson for the Maryland State Department of Education, explained. "It's not in statute that a school system have a spring break, except that Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays."

Reinhard said school officials can ask for waivers to be open less than 180 days and have makeups on days such as the holidays around Easter, "but the state Board of Education has said they really want school systems to come in with a plan on how they're meeting the educational needs of their students."

Prior to Thursday's snowstorm, HCPS Director of Administration Joseph Licata said Harford schools were nearing the point where the school board might consider seeking waivers for some of he missed days.

Like Reinhard, however, Licata said state officials would want proof that every effort was made to plan for weather contingencies to meet the attendance requirements, before they would entertain waiver requests.

The Baltimore Sun contributed to this article.

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