Northern Harford County community leaders are hopeful about the prospect of serious study being given to creating a special school weather zone, one which could have different dismissals and school closing procedures for northern Harford from the rest of the county.
During Wednesday night's Jarrettsville/Norrisville Community Council meeting at the Norrisville library, northern Harford County Councilman Shrodes said interim Superintendent Barbara Canavan and School Board President Nancy Reynolds have agreed to "look at and study" the weather differences that affect northern Harford schools.
Ice storms and heavy snowfalls this winter have prompted concerned parents and community leaders to create a Facebook group, North Harford School Zone Petition To HCPS, where they have posted photos of weather-related accidents involving school buses that have run off the road or gotten stuck in snow during recent storms.
The parents are requesting that school officials consider establishing a zone in the North Harford area for inclement weather days that puts the area's schools on a special schedule, different from the southern two-thirds of the county, which generally fares better during inclement weather events.
A similar system has been in effect in northern Baltimore County's so-called Hereford Zone for a number of years, so named because it primarily encompasses Hereford High School and its feeder schools.
One of the leaders of the northern Harford zone effort spoke at the most recent Harford County Board of Education meeting Feb. 10. Though her aides noted the concept has been studied in the past and was found to be unworkable, Canavan said school officials owe it to parents to look at the issue again.
According to Shrodes, a bad blizzard in the 1960s caused school officials to make special considerations for the northern part of Harford County, which he said has a higher elevation than the rest of the county, making it colder and subject to harsher winter weather conditions.
Community council member Rick Russell, who is principal at Jarrettsville Elementary School, said the major concern is safety. He said the special zone could prevent a complete school system shutdown during inclement weather.
"We could be closed here and leave the other schools open, which would prevent a whole system shutdown," Russell said.
Shrodes said he is glad school officials are willing to work with the community on the northern Harford zone issue.
Ron Sollod, chair of the Fire Prevention and Life Safety Committee, urged Harford residents to consider fire safety while heating their homes and staying warm this winter.
Since the Norrisville area is prone to power outages, Sollod urged residents not to use gas stoves as heating sources, if the power goes out and to keep their back-up generators away from the house.
When using a space heater, Sollod said, it is good practice to keep items at least three feet from the heater. He said heaters should never be used to dry wet clothing or shoes.
Sollod said residents should be wary of overloading their power strips and house circuits. He said having multiple voltage items plugged in together, such as an electric heater alongside other appliances, could be a fire hazard.
He also said residents should be extra careful when using flannel materials, specially bed covers, which can be highly flammable.