The Blizzard of '96, which cost the Baltimore County school system $627,000 in snow removal and overtime, is now costing students their Presidents Day holiday.
In response to a state decision to make up days lost to snow this year, the school board voted last night to hold classes Monday, on April 26 -- which was originally scheduled as a teacher training day -- and on five additional days at the end of the year, June 10-14.
"This is a no-win situation," said deputy superintendent Robert Chapman. "We have folks telling us to extend the school year, not to extend the school year, take certain holidays away, not to take certain holidays away, extend certain days, not to extend certain days."
High school students will face even more makeup time; high schools will now be open full days instead of half days during the last four days of school.
And if the state Board of Education does not waive two of the required makeup days, high schools will also open June 17 and 18. The state requires high school students to attend school more hours than elementary and middle school students.
All of this assumes there are no more blizzards in 1996.
"Pray, do a sun dance, do anything we have to do so we won't have snow tomorrow," Michael Bond, vice president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, told the board last night.
Members of the county's student council applauded the board's action, even though they are losing a long weekend. "Students were very opposed to taking it out of spring break," said Perry Wasserman, a freshman at Towson High School.
Baltimore County students won't be the only ones who will lose out on a midwinter holiday. Four other suburban Baltimore counties -- Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard -- have already decided to open school Presidents Day to make up snow days.
Baltimore school officials have proposed extending the year by two days not already built into the calendar, to June 21, and have asked for a waiver for one additional day, spokeswoman Robyn Washington said.
Baltimore County had built two snow days into this year's calendar; then the storms came along and closed school for nine.
School officials devised the makeup schedule with input from teachers, students and parents, with an eye toward avoiding too many extra days in June, when, some educators say, learning deteriorates rapidly.
Another option that school officials worked hard to avoid was extending the school day, which was a disaster after the ice storms two years ago. The half-hour extensions for six weeks produced exhausted children and threw off day care, sports and after-school job schedules.
Last month, the state Board of Education tabled a proposal by state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick to excuse two of the makeup days. If the state board approves the proposal at its Feb. 20 meeting, county high schools will be off the hook. If not, the board will have to schedule two more makeup days for high schools.
Board member Sanford V. Teplitzky said the school district faces the same problem every year because it builds only two or three snow days into the calendar and should build in seven or eight. "It sends the whole community into a tizzy, and that's just not fair to anybody," he said.