Sun shines on school snow day


Anne Arundel County residents braved sunny skies, slush and puddles to get to their destinations yesterday -- as long as the destination was not school.

While officials from the county Board of Education considered it too dangerous for children to go to school, parents and children were deeming it plenty safe enough to head for the mall.

Jon Monsen, a 16-year-old exchange student from Sweden attending classes at Glen Burnie High School, called the whole situation "strange."

"At home we would have to go to school," he said. "When I was little, the snow was almost over my head and I still had to go to school."

Main roads were clear. Even most of the subdivision roads were passable. But plows had a hard time in the southern end of the county, where a more severe ice storm generated fallen trees and fallen wires -- along with crews trying to take care of both, said Darryl Hockstra, chief of the county Bureau of Highways.

"I can't say enough about the job Public Works has done. Our closing today is not a reflection on that," said Winship Wheatley III, the school system's supervisor of transportation.

Officials ordered schools closed yesterday due to safety concerns, even though jurisdictions to the west and north opened their classroom doors. Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties to the south canceled their classes.

"Our transportation people don't go out and road-test the roads and the walkways in other counties. They do it in Anne Arundel County," schools spokeswoman Nancy Jane Adams said.

"Our issue is really to try to deal with safety," Interim School Superintendent Carol S. Parham said yesterday. "We make the best call that we can based on the best information we have, and we hope we are on target. I still feel that we were on target today."

Sheets of ice had to be removed from buses so they would not fly off roofs and into other traffic or pedestrians, she said.

And those sheets of ice do slide off: Max Dugan, a DJ at Rock 103 in Annapolis, said ice falling from the roof of a T-shirt shop fell and smashed the windshield of his car when he arrived for work Sunday, showering his lap with auto glass.

Plus, many who ride those buses would have had to wait on mountains of ice or in the street for the buses, Mr. Wheatley said, and that's unsafe.

Whether walking to the bus or to school, travel by foot would be dangerous for children, he said. Plows dumped as much as a foot and a half of snow on some sidewalks. Some people never cleared their walkways.

"I don't think the kids are being coddled," he said.

Some parents disagreed.

Regina Simms, who was among those using Marley Station mall yesterday as a cure for cabin fever, wished her 6-year-old son, Billy, was in kindergarten at St. John's in Severna Park. "They should have been in school today," she said.

But most youths -- few of whom said they spent their free days catching up or getting ahead of schoolwork -- said they supported the decision to close school yesterday. Many said they enjoyed the extra freedom, even if they couldn't figure out why they had it.

Darrik Johnson, 11, said it "seems funny" he was off, because "the roads are clear. My mom drove me here. We had no trouble. But I'm glad. We came to the mall for lunch and to shop. I don't miss school."

But the ice could be dangerous to students who walk to school, said Ron Sisk, a 16-year-old junior at Glen Burnie High School. "It's still real icy on sidewalks," he said.

Yesterday was the eighth day county schools have been closed due to the weather. Schools are opening one hour late today, so that older students who normally start at 7:30 a.m. do not travel in the dark, when roads may be slick. Also, Dr. Parham said, the hour delay will give rush-hour traffic the chance to wear away whatever ice, snow and slush remain.

The school system had built four snow days into its calendar and is considering when to make up the other four.

The options, which solicited groans from the youths the make-up days are supposed to benefit, are to take away the few planned holidays left or extend the school year beyond June 14.

"I'm sort of glad we didn't have school," said Jeff Davis, a sophomore at Glen Burnie High School. "But it all depends on when I am going have to make it up. I'm going to Germany at the end of the school year, and I don't want anything to interfere with that trip."

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