Latest Snow Impacts School Calendar Once Again, Pushes Back MSA Testing

Latest Snow Impacts School Calendar Once Again, Pushes Back MSA Testing
Coastal Highway was covered with ice and snow for much of Monday and into Tuesday during this week’s storm. Photo by Chris Parypa

SNOW HILL — Though spring is just around the corner, another winter storm shut down schools again on Monday and Tuesday, pushing back Maryland School Assessment (MSA) testing and most likely the final day of school.

Snowy conditions struck again on Monday morning, leading Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) to close for the first two days of this week as well as delay to the start of classes by one hour in Worcester on Wednesday and two hours in Wicomico.

This week’s closures means there have been eight inclement weather closings so far this school year. While some weather days are anticipated, the frequency of snow cancellations is now forcing WCPS to adjust the calendar once again.

“Three inclement-weather days were built into our school calendar. When they are not used, they are subtracted from the end of the school calendar,” said Barb Witherow, coordinator of Public Relations and Special Programs. “When school closings due to inclement weather exceed the three days, then makeup days must be added to the end of the school calendar. With eight school closings to date, five school days must be added to meet the 180-day requirement.”

The Board of Education has already voted to change the first day of spring break, April 17, from a full-vacation day to a half-day to start to make up the time missed because of snow. For the purpose of satisfying the 180-day requirement, half-days count as full days. The board now has the option to seek state waivers for one or more snow days.

“The superintendent will likely ask for a one-day waiver based on the Snow Emergency Plan issued on Jan. 29, 2014,” said Witherow. “However, with winter still upon us, the waiver request will be delayed due to the possibility of additional inclement weather days. The superintendent may seek a waiver for more than one day. The last day of school is still a work in progress.”

Since the regular end of the school year was scheduled for June 12 originally, assuming that two of those inclement weather days are made up through the change to spring break and an approved waiver that would put a likely last day of school as Tuesday, June 17. But, as maintained by Witherow, the last day is still a moving target since the waiver could be denied or multiple waivers could be requested. Multiple school systems will likely be seeking waivers from the state. Complicating current matters is the fact inclement weather could always strike again.

The snow this week has also altered the schedule for MSA testing. Originally set to begin March 3 and last until March 12, testing began on March 6 has been extended to March 14 with March 17 and 18 as make-up days. The MSA tests for four days, two each for math and reading with local school systems determining the exact schedule. In Worcester, that will be March 6-7 and March 10-11. The MSA science test and PARCC field test will both begin as scheduled on March 24 and run until April 11.

As hectic as this winter has been for students and parents due to school closings, it is still short of the 10 inclement weather days the county experienced over the winter of 2009-2010, according to Witherow.