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Parents irked when Tuscarora slow to close schools

January 25, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Schools throughout the Tri-State area closed Tuesday as a dense wave of snow clobbered the region, but late decisions in one Pennsylvania district irked parents.

By 1 p.m., school systems in all seven counties were closed. But several districts started out the day with a two-hour delay and did not make the decision to send kids home until late morning.

"This is horrible," said Donna Oldham, whose daughter attends James Buchanan High School in Pennsylvania's Tuscarora School District. "My daughter got on that bus this morning and I am just really upset."

The district has 2,600 children enrolled in its elementary, middle and high schools, all of which opened on time. As the snow storm swept into the area, some parents didn't want their kids in class.

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"They shouldn't be there in the first place," said Oldham. "It's very dangerous. I'm sure those kids are at school wondering how they're going to get home."

Superintendent William T. Konzal said that at about 10 a.m. he decided to close schools early. Elementary students were sent home at noon and high school students left at 1 p.m.

"It's always a tough decision," he said. School systems are often forced to predict what the weather may bring and forecasts can change quickly. Tuesday's snowstorm was sudden.

"It was a surprise," Konzal said. "It came in very late." When buses started bringing kids to school, there was no snow, according to Konzal. Once the elementary school students were transported, he didn't want to turn buses around.

Snow came earlier in other areas. Washington and Frederick counties started announcing school closings before 6 a.m. In West Virginia, Berkeley and Jefferson counties first called for two-hour delays but announced closings before 7 a.m.

Morgan County Schools closed at 11:30 a.m. "We didn't have anything coming down at all this morning," said secretary Beth Duvall. "We were fortunate. It kind of passed us by."

The storm didn't penetrate into Maryland's westernmost areas. Allegany and Garrett county schools opened on time. Both had snow on the ground, but it was left over from last week.

In Pennsylvania, Waynesboro area schools started out with a two-hour delay but closures were announced by 7 a.m.

The Greencastle-Antrim School District and Chambersburg Area School District also called for two-hour delays but then closed schools by 9 a.m.

The Southern Fulton School District made a 10:30 a.m. decision to send elementary kids home at 12:15 p.m. and let high school students leave at 12:30 p.m., according to secretary Mandy Black.

Central Fulton followed suit, sending four-year-old kindergarten students home at noon and all other students at 1 p.m.

"We didn't start getting snow until 10 a.m. this morning," said secretary Angela Marshall. "It's coming down pretty good now."

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