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Snow still affecting area

March 03, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Snow once again hit the Tri-State area Thursday night into Friday morning, causing more school closings and delays.

Hagerstown received 2.6 inches of snow Thursday and 0.5 inches as of Friday morning, according to weather watcher Greg Keefer's Web site.

The total snowfall in February hit 34.6 inches, topping the previous February record of 31 inches in 1899, according to the Web site. So far this season, the area has received 56.7 inches of snow.

The National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., is calling for a break from accumulating snowfall this weekend.

There is a chance of freezing rain tonight, snow flurries Sunday and snow showers Sunday night, but the weather agency hasn't predicted the activity to be significant.

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Other severe weather this winter has some Maryland and Pennsylvania school systems waiting for word from state authorities on whether some or all of the missed snow days need to be made up.

In West Virginia, however, school officials have a better understanding of how to proceed.

Beverly Hughes, associate superintendent for Jefferson County Schools, said state law prohibits students from going to school beyond June 9. The school system has used 16 snow days.

The last day of school in Jefferson County was scheduled for June 3. School officials were able to add four make-up snow days to the schedule, bumping the last day of school to June 9.

The remaining 12 days will not be made up unless the legislature extends the last day of school beyond June 9, Hughes said.

So far, that hasn't happened.

"At this point, everything is definitely very clearly written in West Virginia," Hughes said. "Unless they changed the law, we wouldn't be able to do anything with it."

Berkeley County (W.Va.) schools spokeswoman Mary Jo Brown said the school system has used 14 snow days. Students there also will make up four of those days, with the last day of school June 9 rather than June 3.

Ten snow days will not be made up unless directed by the state to do so, Brown said.

"The law tells us when to end and when to begin," Brown said. "We have little to no flexibility. Beyond that, it's a legislative issue as to what we can do."

Jefferson and Berkeley county schools were closed Friday because of snow.

Please turn to SNOW, A2

The weather Thursday night into Friday morning also caused Washington County Public Schools to close, bringing the number of days missed because of snow to 12, Public Information Officer Carol Mowen said.

Five of those 12 days have been allotted on the school calendar for snow, which means students may have to make up five to seven days.

Five days would have to be made up if Maryland State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick allows schools a two-day waiver on missed days. Seven would have to be made up if the school system isn't granted the waiver.

In the meantime, Mowen said the School Board is considering creative ways to make up the days.

"Nothing has been decided yet," Mowen said. "We really believe the loss of instruction is a serious issue, and we're going to do our best to address the issue."

State education spokesman Bill Reinhard said Grasmick will take requests for the two-day waiver on a case-by-case basis.

"It's not a blanket two-day waiver," he said. "She wants to make sure the school system has done all it can to squeeze out all those days."

The Greencastle-Antrim and Chambersburg school districts in Pennsylvania were delayed two hours Friday.

Each of those districts have had six school days canceled because of snow.

Greencastle-Antrim Secretary Debbie Timmons said the snow days have bumped up the last day of school from June 5 to June 11. She said the School Board is considering using state Act 80, which would allow seniors to go to school under the mandatory 180 days if necessary.

Chambersburg Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said the school district had 183 instructional days built into the schedule, which leaves three of the six days to be made up.

Those days will be made up on a winter break day, an in-service day and one day during Easter vacation, Sponseller said.

Sponseller said the last bad winter the school district saw was in the 1995-96 school year, when school was canceled 13 times.

"But in recent years, this is the worst one," Sponseller said of this winter.

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