SNOW HILL — The calendar says spring but Mother Nature missed the memo, as another snowstorm closed Worcester and Wicomico Public Schools again on Wednesday. However, this week’s closing shouldn’t impact the planned last day of school, June 13, for either county.
With its 10 closure days so far, Worcester will be asking the state to waive at least four closure days. Wicomico County, where nine inclement weather days have been recorded, is still considering options but have told parents that June 13 is also a probable last day of school for the county.
Before this week, Worcester was already seeking waivers for three previous snow days and now March 26 has been added to the list as well.
“The superintendent will seek a waiver associated with the 180-day requirement for four days (Jan. 29, March 3, March 17, and March 26) when a Snow Emergency Plan was issued for Worcester County,” said Barb Witherow, coordinator of Public Relations and Special Programs. “During a Snow Emergency Plan, the State Highway Administration and the Maryland State Police request that only vehicles with snow tires or chains be on the roadways.”
Asking for four waivers in a single winter is atypical. However, the State Board of Education agreed this week to allow for school systems to request up to five waiver days.
“Students need time in class to succeed, and we take Maryland’s instructional day requirement very seriously,” said Dr. Charlene Dukes, president of the Maryland State Board of Education (MSDE). “At the same time, this has been a very unusual winter, and it requires us to take unusual steps.”
Non-public schools, which operate on a 170-day calendar, have been authorized to seek up to two days in waivers.
So far, 15 school districts, including Worcester and Wicomico, have filed for waivers. All 24 school systems in the state have exceeded the snow days that are built into their calendars at the beginning of every year. With 10 inclement weather days, Worcester has tied the number set during the winter of 2009-2010 when the area was beset by several major snow events and the state again allowed for requests of up to five waivers. However, the Eastern Shore has not been hit as hard as some other parts of Maryland this year. Allegany and Garrett counties have seen 16 and 20 inclement weather closings, respectively.
While Worcester may apply for four days waived, whether or not that is approved will be a state decision. According to a release from the MSDE, “no timetable has been set for decisions on the waiver requests.” If all four are waived and with three weather days worked into the original calendar, Worcester would make up the remaining three days by turning vacation days on March 28 and April 17 into half-days and extending the school calendar from Thursday June 12 to Friday June 13.
Neighboring Wicomico County schools have not yet indicated how they will deal with this week’s closing but will most likely also apply to have it waived. Like Worcester, their last day of school is currently June 13.
“Today was our ninth weather closing day for the 2013-2014 school year. All of those days have come since Jan. 21,” said Tracy Saylor, Wicomico Board of Education representative. “We will certainly be requesting a waiver for some of the nine missed school days. The superintendent and the Board of Education will decide on the number in the near future.”