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After snow-filled winter, Baltimore district plans to extend school year while others seek permission for less than 180 days

After struggling to squeeze enough school days into a snow-filled year while also complying with a strict mandate from Gov. Larry Hogan, some school districts are planning to extend the academic year thanks to newfound flexibility granted by the Maryland General Assembly.

The Baltimore school board is scheduled to vote Tuesday to lengthen the academic calendar by two days. That would break with Hogan's executive order that all schools must end by June 15, but meet the state's 180-day instructional requirement.

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Amid a winter full of snow days, the General Assembly passed emergency legislation authorizing school systems to extend the current school year by up to five days. Maryland school districts are required to have 180 school days every year, unless the state grants a waiver from the law.

The state school board will vote Tuesday on requests for waivers from eight county school districts, including Howard and Baltimore counties. State Superintendent Karen Salmon is recommending the board approve Baltimore County's request, but deny the one from Howard County. If Howard is denied a waiver, the school system will have to extend the school year, officials said.

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Baltimore County built five extra days into its calendar to allow for bad-weather days, and used them all. While elementary and middle schools are on track to meet the state requirement, high schoolers would be eight hours short because their school day is shorter than most high school students' in the state. The county is seeking a waiver for eight hours of high school time. Baltimore County officials said they will wait for a decision from the state board before making any needed adjustments to the calendar.

With Wednesday’s snowfall, many Baltimore-area school systems are at the end of their allotted snow days for the 2017-2018 school year.

Harford, Carroll and Anne Arundel counties have used up exactly the number of days they allotted for bad weather, and none will need to extend the school year or seek a waiver. They plan to end their school year by June 15.

Baltimore schools CEO Sonja Santelises has asked the city school board to designate Monday, June 18, and Tuesday, June 19, as school days for students and staff.

Last month, the city district asked the state education board for a waiver to allow one fewer school day than required by law. The school system's request was denied after some state board members scolded the city for failing to build into the school calendar enough vacation days that could have been converted into make-up snow days. The day after that waiver denial, the city was again closed for snow.

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Baltimore schools would not have been able to meet the 180-day requirement without the new legislation allowing the extended calendar.

The city school district closed for five inclement-weather days this year, including for a heavy snow in late March and an unexpected windstorm that toppled trees and knocked out power lines.

Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta A. English said in a statement that she hopes Hogan uses this year's experience as a guide for handling next year.

School systems may have to adjust their calendars as they get closer to running out of snow days.

"We all learned as children that no one can control the weather," she said.

Howard County is in a similar situation. The district closed for seven inclement-weather days this year — two more than anticipated when the system crafted its calendar. The district has requested a waiver from the state board to allow the county to have a 178-day instructional year.

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