Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Snow Days- Was this a good year?

Montgomery Co. MD to students and parents: Sorry; you should've had two 2-hour delays on April 25 and April 26. All absences for those two mornings are excused. Reason? Tornado warnings issued at 6:30am on both mornings. Reason that these delayed openings were not announced? The County makes the call by 5am.

In our area, school delays and closings usually only happen for snow and ice in winter; and the occasional September hurricane, more often a tropical storm. Cancellation of after-school activities is also common for heavy rains. Closing for tornadoes, in an area that receives few, might seem to parents a little incredulous to believe.

Mont. Co. batted average for giving snow days this year: 4. One was given for an ice storm: that day, I actually couldn't get to school safely. Three were given for one Jan. 27-29 snow event, which left 6 inches on the ground in DC, but a whole 12 inches ten miles north in Mont. Co. The County, usually quick to give snow days, made a dubious call for one late-season weather event, giving a 2-hour delay instead. There was a whole 3 inches of snow on top of half an inch of ice on the ground upcounty. Neighboring PG and Frederick Cos. gave the day to the students. Mont. Co. would've probably given students that day and another in February, if it wouldn't trigger an extension of the school year, and if there were not so many "teacher development days" this school year. Given that we took all four of those contingency days, from our perspective, this year was "perfect". Students would need 10 days off in all- rare indeed- to make any further gains: school year extensions are typically capped at 5 days.

St. Anselm's now has gotten its own banner on Fox 5. While some teachers at school have expressed frustration about what they consider "wimpy" calls from Rockville, snow day calls are still based on Mont. Co. MD for liability reasons. What the school really wants, though, is to be able to make calls when Mont. Co. is out of school for teacher days without resorting to a phone tree. Some parents still live email-lite, but sending a shoutout to students on Facebook would work, though.

As for neighboring DC, only one snow day (Jan. 27) was called this year. The other days which Mont. Co. got off, including that ice storm, were 2 hour delays. But this was enough to trigger an extended school year; for some reason, DC had not put in any buffer days against the 180 day minimum. The Board of Education is looking into why the schedule turned out this way this school year.

Snow and ice totals set a record for the East Coast overall; however, three of the five major storms that hit Philadelphia missed DC, which made this winter season an underperformer for the city; yet, by catching one of those missed major storms, and picking up some clouds from the mountains, snow totals were slightly above average in Mont. Co.

Sources: Washington Examiner Weather Page, May 2011; Northwest Current (DC), May 18 2011.

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