BERLIN — Two weird weeks of snowy weather have likely changed the last day of school for both Worcester and Wicomico counties, but with a lot of winter yet to go, it remains a bit of a moving target.
While Wicomico isn’t sure when the school system’s last day will be at this point, for Worcester students it will be June 17, barring any more snow days or calendar adjustments. The weather has wreaked havoc with parents and educators for the past two weeks and both Worcester and Wicomico students will probably be making up at least some of their snow days with an extended school year. Though Worcester has some leeway worked into the calendar at the beginning of the year, snow closings have already burned through what was set aside. Last week, for examples, students went to school on Tuesday but schools were closed Wednesday and Thursday and opened two hours late on Friday.
“Worcester County Public Schools’ school calendar has three inclement weather days built into the fourth marking period,” said Barb Witherow, coordinator of Public Relations and Special Programs. “If those days are not used within the school year, then they are subtracted from the end of the calendar and the last day of school is moved to an earlier date. If, however, closings due to inclement weather days exceed the allotted three days, makeup days are added to the end of the calendar and the last day of school is pushed to a later date.”
Worcester has used six inclement-weather days, pushing the last day of school from June 12, to the current June 17. June 12 would have been a half-day and falls on a Thursday. June 17 falls on the following Tuesday and would also be a half day. However, in the past Worcester has sought some “calendar adjustments” to keep the school year from running too long. These could still be on the table.
“Options that are typically reviewed as possibilities are shortening the scheduled spring break, reducing the number of professional days, and/or requesting a waiver from the State Superintendent of Schools for one or more days,” Witherow said. “Waivers are typically sought for days that fall within a declared State of Emergency, for days where a Snow Emergency Plan is in effect at the county level, or for days that will likely result in high absentees, such as when a last day of school falls on a Monday.”
The goal is to meet the mandated 180 days of school benchmark. It is worth noting that school delays do not count against that 180-day requirement. There are, however, a separately tracked minimum number of hours that each grade level must spend in school every year. This isn’t a problem for Worcester, despite several fog delays early in the school year, because the county tends to come in well above the minimum on any average year.
“For example, at the middle school level, students are required to attend 180 days and a minimum of 1,080 hours,” said Witherow. “In Worcester County Public Schools, middle school students well exceed the minimum hours required. In fact, our middle school students exceed the minimum by 196.5 hours. As you can see, even with some fog delays or early dismissals, our students would continue to far exceed the requirement.”
The issue of calendar adjustments opposed to stretching the school year out until June 17 will be examined in the coming weeks and will likely be influenced by any additional inclement weather days schools might be forced to take this winter.
The situation is similar in Wicomico County schools. The original last day for the county was June 6. As of Thursday, they have taken five inclement weather days.
Though there are two days in the spring that could be calendar adjusted into makeup days, school system representatives are cautioning parents not to expect June 6 to remain the last day of school. A decision on makeup days is expected by the end of next February.
More weeks of winter lie ahead, and no decision will be made at this time on how to make up the five weather closing days of Jan. 21, 22 and 23 and Jan. 29-30, Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Fredericksen said in a prepared statement.
According to that statement, “In Wicomico, makeup days are typically added on at the end of the school year. The approved calendar for Wicomico schools states that some scheduled school days off can be changed to weather makeup days, but only two of these discretionary days remain: a March 31 professional day and the April 17 day off that begins the spring holiday break. Wicomico school families will be notified as soon as a decision on makeup days is made, perhaps by the end of February.”