Hurricane Irene might wash out first day of school on Monday

Growing up in Cuba, Andres Alonso was no stranger to hurricanes. He said the one he remembers best was Hurricane Flora in 1963, when he was a little boy. The storm killed 7,000 people and is among the deadliest on record.

"That was the one that made an impression on me," he said.

Now, Alonso, chief executive office of the Baltimore public school system, is bracing for the arrival of possibly strong winds and heavy rains from Hurricane Irene, which as of Saturday had already left at least 200,000 people without power in North Carolina'sOuter Banks.

And Alonso must decide whether to open school for the school year on Monday, as scheduled, or postpone the first day of school.

"We will decide on Sunday afternoon," Alonso said at the former Mount Washington Elementary School, now called The Mount Washington School, which held a grand opening event on Friday evening, even as Irene bore down on Ocean City. The school this year boasts two buildings, including the former Shrine of the Sacred Heart Catholic School, which closed last year, as well as an International Baccalaureate program for 80 students, and will have students in middle school grades.

Alonso said the decision on wheher to cancel school Monday will be based on two factors: how much flooding there is and whether schools have electricity. Mount Washington in particular is a flood-prone area.

Alonso said his biggest hope is that the threat of Irene to the Baltimore area will fizzle.

"We're hoping it will go out to sea," he sai

Mount Washington School Principal Sue Torr, who introduced Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at the grand opening event, said she won't be too upset if the first day of school is canceled.

"We'll just be here the second day," Torr said.

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