Schools Seek Snow Day Waiver

NEWARK – Worcester County School Board members this week approved a request for a waiver of five school days lost to inclement weather this winter, which, if approved, would put the closing date for the end of the year back at its original June 15 target.

With sunny skies and balmy temperatures reaching the mid 60s this week, memories of the three back-to-back major snowstorms a month ago are fading to distant memory, but local school officials are still trying to recover from the storms that closed schools for a full week at one point straddled by other closures on either end. Ten days have been lost this year, threatening to push the end of the school year to June 22.

However, it now appears schools could be back on track for the original June 15 closing day for students. At the request of Superintendent Dr. Jon Andes this week, school board members approved a request for a waiver of five days from the state.

At its February meeting, the county school board made an adjustment in the schedule, cutting two days from spring break around Easter. Thursday, April 1, originally scheduled as a day off for students and an in-service day for teachers, was restored as a half-day for students getting on the snow days back. In addition, Tuesday, April 6, originally scheduled as the last day of spring break, was made a full day for students.

Andes said this week while approval of Worcester’s waiver request isn’t automatic, it appears likely because the county made every effort to make up the missed days.

“Based on the actions we have already taken to make up days, I anticipate our state superintendent will approve our request for a waiver of the five days,” he said. “We’ve illustrated we’re making an effort to meet the minimums.”

Those minimums require students to be in school for 180 days, or 1,080 hours for elementary and middle school students, and 1,170 hours for high school students. Despite the weather-related closure days, Worcester County schools already exceed the hourly requirements with elementary students typically recording 1,265 hours, middle school students recording 1,283 hours and high school students recording 1,214 hours.

To date, eight school systems across Maryland have requested and received waivers from the state school superintendent. Just yesterday, state school officials approved neighboring Wicomico County’s request.

Andes said on Tuesday with the abbreviated spring break gaining two days already, there is little or no opportunity in the remaining calendar to get back even one more day. The only option is to have schools open on Memorial Day, which is not on the table.

“Based on the nature of our area, I would not recommend opening on Memorial Day,” he said. “That’s the only other day available.”