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News Maryland Harford County Bel Air

Harford County Public Schools more than halfway through inclement weather days

If snow or icy conditions continue in the area, Harford County Public Schools students, staff and faculty could find themselves in school a few extra days at the end of the year.

To date, Harford County Public Schools have used four of its allotted seven inclement weather make-up days for the 2013-2014 school year, Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for HCPS, said.

Last month, Harford County Public Schools closed two days - Dec. 9 and 10 - for snowy conditions.

The polar vortex, which caused freezing temperatures, icy conditions, fog and snow during early January, used two more of the school district's inclement weather days, closing schools on Jan. 3 and 7.

According to the Code of Maryland Regulations, students are required to have 180 days of instruction, Kranefeld said.

The three remaining potential inclement weather make-up days are attached to spring break, Kranefeld said

Harford County Public Schools have also opened late four times this school year because of poor weather conditions, but Kranefeld said early dismissals and late openings do not play a role in the 180 days of instruction requirement.

Last week, upset parents fumed about the decision of Anne Arundel County Public Schools to open schools on time amid inclement weather. Temperatures fell below freezing in the morning hours on Friday in Anne Arundel County, causing 70 car accidents and 50 injuries.

Harford, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll and Howard all opened schools two hours late on Friday.

Later, officials from the Anne Arundel School system apologized for their decision to open schools on time before the freezing rain made roads icy.

Harford County Public Schools has a set process to assess and make a determination on school closings, delays and early dismissals based on weather conditions, road conditions and power outages, Kranefeld said.

"Weather forecasts, temperature, and projected weather event timelines are also closely monitored using 'Accuweather' and other sources of information, such as the Harford County Emergency Operations Center," Kranefeld said in an email. "The decision is made based on the conditions observed and the best available forecasted information at that time."

Kranefeld said when weather conditions change rapidly, Harford County Public Schools "expect bus drivers and the motoring public will exercise caution appropriately for weather conditions as well as the resulting road conditions."

This school year, several Harford County schools have had early dismissals because of mechanical issues in the building.

Jarrettsville Elementary School closed early on Nov. 25 because of a full power outage in the building. Two days later, William S. James Elementary School also closed because of a similar problem.

After a two-hour delayed opening because of inclement weather, Abingdon Elementary School dismissed students at 1:30 p.m. after school officials discovered the building was without heat. Joppatowne High School and Fallston Middle School were both closed on Jan.8 due to a mechanical failure.

But, according to Kranefeld, individual school closings, for various reasons, do not impact the 180 day instructional requirement. She said HCPS can make a request to the state board of education that the individual closing be waived.

"When individual schools are closed by themselves due to various issues, a waiver of the 180-day requirement is submitted to the state in order to keep them on schedule with the rest of the district," Kranefeld said in an email.

Harford County Public Schools are on schedule for the school year to end June 13, the date that was originally approved by the Harford County Board of Education.

"In order to extend the calendar any further into June, the Board would have to vote to extend the school year," Kranefeld said in an email.

Schools in Cecil County have closed five days this school year for inclement weather related to ice, cold weather or snow, Kelly Keeton, assistant in administration at Cecil County Public Schools, said.

In Cecil County, three inclement weather days are built into the school year. For the 2013-14 school year, Feb. 14, March 28 and May 23 were built in as days off of school for students and 10 month staff, if they were not used for inclement weather.

Keeton said six days are also tacked onto the end of the school year as makeup days for inclement weather.

"Originally the last day of school for students in Cecil County was June 6," Keeton said. "Now it is June 10 because of the two inclement weather days that need to be made up."

Keeton said graduation dates, however, will remain the same.

Should Cecil County Public Schools need to use the four other remaining built-in inclement weather days, she said they can apply for the Maryland State Department of Education to waive those days so it fits into the 180-day instruction requirement, Keeton said.

The last time Cecil County requested a waiver for instructional days from the state department of education was during the 2012-2013 school year when one day was waived. Keeton said.

"One day was added to the end of the school year," Keeton said. "Unfortunately that would have placed the last day of school for students on a Monday instead of the original last day, the previous Friday."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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