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Schools revising calendars

January 29, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Tri-State school officials are revising academic calendars to make up for classes missed after three days of weather-related school closings this week.

Wednesday was the fourth snow day this school year that Washington County Public Schools has canceled classes due to inclement weather, spokeswoman Carol Mowen said. The first day classes were canceled was Dec. 5.

She said the school's calendar has five make-up days in June. Students now will have classes on June 4, 7, 8 and 9. Graduation is scheduled for June 10.

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If the school system has to cancel two more days of classes due to weather, the Board of Education will need to use other previously designated make-up days, Mowen said.

The board's calendar lists President's Day, Feb. 16, which is a school holiday, as a possible make-up day, she said.

A March 29 professional day - when school employees work but students have the day off - and April 8 are possible make-up days, Mowen said.

While schools were closed for Hurricane Isabel in the fall, that day does not have to be made up because the cancellation was caused by the declaration of an emergency, she said.

Last year, Washington County Public Schools canceled 12 days of classes, forcing the board to explore other ways to make up missed class time, she said. The board chose to lengthen the school day to solve that problem.

In Berkeley County, W.Va., five snow days so far this school year means the last full day for students will be Monday, June 7, not Tuesday, June 1 as first planned. An optional-attendance day will be June 8, Deputy Superintendent Frank Aliveto said.

The Greencastle-Antrim (Pa.) School District has used three of the eight snow days built into the calendar, schools Superintendent P. Duff Rearick said. The make-up days for this week's canceled classes will be Feb. 16, March 12 and April 8, he said.

The Waynesboro (Pa.) Area School District has six snow days built into its calendar. The three days lost this week will be made up March 19, April 8 and June 4.

If more days are needed, they will be tacked on to the end of the school year, school officials said.

With three straight days off this week, the Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District has had five days canceled because of inclement weather, two more than the number of snow days built into the school calendar, said Cynthia Happel, an administrative assistant with the Child Accounting Office.

Happel said classes will be held Monday, Feb. 16, and Thursday, April 8. If another day is lost to snow, she said Monday, April 12, will be used as a make-up day.

Tuscarora (Pa.) School District Superintendent Thomas Stapleford said there were four foul weather days built into the schedule, but five days of classes have been canceled.

"That includes the day we took off for the hurricane way back in the fall," Stapleford said.

Since that was a state-declared emergency, Stapleford said Gov. Ed Rendell could waive any requirement that it be made up, but that has not happened.

One of the make-up days in the schedule, Jan. 2, has already passed, so Stapleford said the School Board may decide next week what day to use.

"Probably the first spot we're going to be looking at it the Monday after Easter," he said.

While some school systems in the Tri-State area announce school closings the night before the affected day in question, Washington County Public Schools waits until the morning, Chris Carter, the system's director of transportation, said Wednesday.

At about 4 a.m., five people, including Carter, drive routes that are representative of some of the critical areas for safe school bus travel to determine the condition of the roads, he said. They determine whether there is enough traction for stopping and turning, since school buses have to make thousands of stops each day.

Other issues examined before making a decision on a school cancellation include the conditions of sidewalks and parking lots, he said.

While Carter said he understands that parents want to know as soon as possible whether schools are canceled, the system prefers to wait until the morning so it can get a better sense of road conditions before making a determination. By waiting, the system gives the road crews six more hours to clear off roads, he said.

The system has to balance the safety of its students with the problems caused by school closures, such as finding make-up days for classes and athletic events, Mowen said.

Staff Writers Candice Bosely, Don Aines and Richard Belisle contributed to this story.

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