Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rethinking the School Calendar: Snow days

The winter of 2009-2010 will certainly be a memorable one on the Maryland school calendar. That is because we have had more than 70 inches of snow so far and it is still snowing. In Owings Mills, where I live, we have had a whopping 90 inches of snow. Yes ladies and gentleman you heard me correctly 90 inches. And remember I said it is still snowing. Old man winter is not done with us. After this record snowfall, the second this month, the weather forcast is for more on Monday and and then some more at the end of the week. Because of all this snow, Maryland schools are getting an unexpected winter break in February. Worse yet, most school districts have either already run out of snow days or will by the end of the week. Now I am sure you are asking why I am talking about this. Well let me take you back to when I was in high school in the 70's.

I grew up just northwest of New York City. Our school calender gave off on such days as Veterans' Day, Columbus Day and a whole week in February around Washington's Birthday. We started school just before Labor Day and ended the third week in June. We had the occasional snow day when the weather got bad and if we had more than the budgeted 3 days, we lost time off our Spring break.

During my brief tenure as a teacher in the Massachusetts schools in the late 80's and early 90's we kept to a similar calendar. Snow days only happened if we had blizzard conditions or an ice storm. I did some time in the Rochester area when I was in college. Now they rarely have a snow day. And then there is Texas. The Dallas/Fort Worth area runs screaming in terror at the sight of a snowflake. Well here in Maryland we don't get Veterans' Day or Columbus Day nor do we get a week off in February. School starts at the end of August (24th this year) and ends somewhere between June 12 and 17. Most school districts budget 3 maybe 4 snow days (Here in Baltimore County we get 7). Last year we got snow days for more than 5 inches. 5 inches usually led to a delay of 1-2 hours. Well this winter we lost 2 days in December for a 21 inch snowfall just prior to winter break. This week we have the whole week off because of a 30 inch snowfall over the weekend and another 25 inches today. I think we need to go back to a week off in February. Didn't the groundhog say 6 more weeks of winter?!

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