Some days, you just can't catch a break

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It's already mid-January, and Baltimore area students haven't had a single snow day. And yesterday's snowfall amounted to nothing more than a tease.

One to 3 inches of snow fell in the region -- but not until after the first bell. Students could only look out the windows and wonder what a difference a few hours might have made. School systems remained open, but after-school and evening activities were postponed or canceled.

"We're rooting for a blizzard here," said Jeff Amoros, a senior at Centennial High School in Ellicott City.

The next predicted snow? Saturday. The weekend.

Students are bemoaning the absence of unscheduled days off. At Centennial High School, student journalists have taken up the case in the latest issue of The Wingspan.

"The story is about the absence of snow days this year -- all the hype snow days usually get and the fact that students love that," said Amoros, co-editor-in-chief.

In Towson, some children are wearing their pajamas inside out and backward to sway Mother Nature for snow.

Katherine Connolly, an eighth-grader at Dumbarton Middle School, performed that ritual Tuesday night.

"I've done it since I was little," said Katherine, who also threw salt over her shoulder out the window that night. "It doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. It makes it more fun with the anticipation."

Another method is leaving the dictionary open to the word "snow" and performing a snow dance -- something Katherine hasn't tried, at least yet, she said.

"I love snow," she said.

In the past two school years, early winter storms closed Baltimore-area schools on Dec. 5. In the 1999-2000 school year, the first snow-related school closing came late: Jan. 20. In the 2001-2002 year, area school districts didn't use any snow days.

But snow days can't come quickly enough for Max Wetherington, a junior at Towson High School, who lives for interruptions that allow him to sleep in, goof off and go sledding with his friends.

He explained: "Well, just the joy of waking up and seeing snow outside and knowing for sure you're going to get off. ... Some days, I dream that there is snow outside. But you wake up, and you're disappointed."

Even having to make up snow days, possibly at the end of the school year, doesn't matter.

"It's worth it. You live in the present," he said. "What's happening now is what you care about."

It's a different story for parents and school administrators, though.

Snow "creates nothing but chaos," said David Bruzga, Howard's administrative director for secondary schools. "It's pretty to look at, but we have to make up everything."

A decision to close or delay school starts in the pre-dawn hours, when school transportation officials check road and weather conditions and make recommendations to school superintendents, who make the final call.

Makeup days for snow and other inclement weather and emergency closings are built into the school calendar. But harsh winter seasons, such as the storm in February 2003 that paralyzed the state, can throw off any type of planning.

Carmela Guthart, a mother of two daughters in Carroll County schools, is hoping for as few snow days as possible.

"I'm thrilled to death" that school hasn't closed because of snow, she said.

Snow days didn't exist in Iowa, where Guthart grew up -- a fact she likes to point out to Alex, 15, a sophomore at North Carroll High School, and Victoria, 13, a seventh-grader at North Carroll Middle School, when they complain about going to school as snowflakes are falling.

"I tell them, 'You should be in Iowa ... you don't know snow,'" she said. "We got snow pants every year because we wore them out. Here, they get them because they want something new."

Not every student, however, enjoys the extra days off during winter.

Thomas Haley, a freshman at Broadneck High School in Annapolis, loves skateboarding and surfing and doesn't want to make up days at the end of the school year.

"The more time we have to take off in the winter, the more days they add on in the summer," said the 14-year-old, who lives in Cape St. Claire. "That really bums me out."

Baltimore-area school districts monitored conditions overnight and will decide this morning whether school openings should be delayed. Anne Arundel County made its decision yesterday, opting to open schools two hours late.

But that might not be enough for some.

"It would be awesome to have a snow day," said 14-year-old Lauren Upton, an eighth-grader at St. Mary's Elementary School, a private school in Annapolis.

Sun staff writers Gina Davis, Liz Kay, Molly Knight, Laura Loh and Sara Neufeld contributed to this article.

Late openings

The Anne Arundel County public school system has announced a two-hour delayed opening for today. All morning kindergarten, pre-kindergarten and early-childhood intervention classes are canceled.

For the latest closings or delayed openings from other Baltimore-area school systems, go to: www.baltimoresun.com/closings.

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