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School Board Grants Schools Free Day Off

By Lydia X. McCoy and Carla Correa
Capital News Service
Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2003

ANNAPOLIS - Maryland students got a little hurricane present Tuesday from state school officials: one fewer day in the school year to make up.

The Maryland State Board of Education Tuesday granted all 24 school districts a one-day waiver of the 180-day school year requirement on the recommendation of State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick.

"I recognized the extraordinary efforts that systems make in trying to stay open," Grasmick said in a statement. "These are circumstances beyond our control."

The decision covers Friday, when all state school systems shut down for the variety of problems caused by Hurricane Isabel, which rolled through the area Thursday and Friday.

Maryland schools are required to be in session for a minimum of 180 days and 1,080 hours per school year at the elementary and middle-school levels, and 1,170 hours at the high school level.

School systems pad their calendars for weather-related closings and vacations, but it's unusual for schools to be using up days already, said Bill Reinhard, spokesman for Maryland State Department of Education.

Grasmick "thought they should be forgiven for the one day," Reinhard said.

School districts determine the extra number of days they should add to their calendars by historic performance and weather predictions. Last winter's harsh conditions saw school systems quickly using up their extra days.

"We had unusually high number of schools out because of weather," Reinhard said about last year's days. "And the year before it was exceedingly light."

In Charles County, Isabel closed schools for three days while flooding receded and downed power lines and impassable roads were repaired. It has four inclement weather days built into its calendar.

Charles County schools spokeswoman Katie O'Malley-Simpson said the waiver, "certainly will help" manage the calendar.

School systems handled the hurricane emergency differently, Reinhard said. Most school systems, he said, were closed Thursday, but not Allegany and Garrett counties. Others, like Carroll, Cecil, Frederick and Washington counties, opened Monday, but let out early and therefore, will not have to make the day

The quick action on the waiver took some by surprise.

"Usually we don't hear that until February or March," said Marlene Feldman, spokeswoman for Dorchester County schools. "So it's kind of weird to hear that."

Systems that were closed other days besides Friday because of weather-related difficulties may request additional days from the State Board closer to the end of the year. Such cases are considered on a case-by-case basis.

"Parents and teachers are affected the most," Reinhard said. "No
one wants to see students in class July 4."


Copyright 2003 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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