Hurricane Isabel causes school cancellations

Oct. 1, 2003, midnight | By Katherine Zhang | 20 years, 8 months ago

MCPS loses two snow days due to Isabel

MCPS lost two of its four allotted snow emergency days for the 2003-2004 school year because of school cancellations caused by Hurricane Isabel.

The hurricane caused all 191 Montgomery County public schools to close last Thursday and Monday. MCPS had already scheduled Friday off for students for a professional day, and, according to the Rockville Gazette, nineteen public schools, including Blair, remained closed on Tuesday.

MCPS spokesperson Kate Harrison said that school closures on Thursday, Sep. 18 and Monday, Sep. 22 will probably be counted as snow days. According to Principal Phillip Gainous, Tuesday, Sep. 23 is not likely to count against MCPS because not all schools were closed. "It only counts against the system if the whole system is closed," he said.

A power outage caused Blair to cancel classes last Tuesday, Sep. 23. "If we don't have power…then it's a safety hazard," said Gainous about the decision to cancel school. According to Gainous, the school has backup generators, but they do not provide enough power for classes to continue.

One hundred eighty-four days of school were scheduled for the 2003-2004 school year, Harrison said, leaving four days for weather emergencies.

The Maryland State Department of Education granted a one-day waiver for all 24 Maryland school districts for Friday, Sep. 19, the day that MCPS had already cancelled school for a professional day.

According to a press release from the Department of Education from Sep. 23, "systems that were closed on days other than Friday because of weather-related difficulties may request additional days from the State Board closer to the end of the school year. Such requests are considered on a case-by-case basis."

MCPS had already taken steps to help schools make up the lost days, according to Assistant Principal Linda Wolf, such as delaying interim dates. "The school system is doing some things that will help alleviate the problem," she said.

Hurricane Isabel posed an inconvenience for some teachers, especially those who teach even periods. Two of the days that Blair remained closed were on even days, leaving teachers with even classes two periods short.

"It's a very significant interruption and loss of time for class instruction," said Judith Smith, who teaches twelfth-grade English and AP Literature. "I'm going to be making adjustments," she stated. Dr. Smith said she plans to take some "less important things" out of her curriculum.

"I'm concerned in the sense that we have exams and … state mandated tests," said Gainous, elaborating that the lost school days means less class time for test preparations.

Wolf believes that Blair will be able to recover from the lost days. "We'll make it up," she said. "We always do." Assistant Principal Pamela Shetley agreed, saying, "With a little extra effort, we'll be back on schedule."

However, Maryland may experience heavy snow this winter, which could cause further loss of school days. "I just hope [Isabel is] not a foreshadowing of things to come," Wolf said.

Should heavy snow cause further school cancellations, the school year may have to be extended, according to Harrison. "We have a contingency calendar that adds up to nine days [to the school year]," she stated.

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Katherine Zhang. Katherine Zhang likes French baguettes, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, bookmarks, fresh boxes of rosin, Brad Meltzer novels, and of course, "JAG." In her free time, Katherine enjoys knitting, playing the violin, and reading - especially legal thrillers and books about people in faraway places and long-ago times. … More »

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