- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

Schools across the region will remain closed for a fourth day today while snow-removal crews work around the clock to clear roads and parking lots.
Prince George's County schools weighed in early yesterday afternoon with a decision to cancel classes today and tomorrow, citing the safety of its 136,464 students and the dangerous conditions of many of the county roads and side streets.
Fairfax County, the largest school district in the area with 165,000 students, also decided to close schools today, as did Arlington County, Alexandria, Montgomery County, Anne Arundel County and the District.
"We consulted with the county and our facilities department and [found that] many neighborhoods and sidewalks are potentially hazardous. Many of our students have to wait for buses and they would be forced to stand in the streets because of the snow banks," said Athena Ware, spokeswoman for Prince George's County public schools.
Ms. Ware said numerous Prince George's County neighborhoods have yet to be plowed, making it almost impossible for school buses to drive along the streets.
"We transport over 90,000 students in buses and we have to think of them. And, students have to have a safe place to wait on the buses," she said.
But as crews work to clear bus routes and school parking lots, students continue to miss days from school, days that must be made up. School systems around the area have used all of their budgeted snow days and may have to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to make up the days.
School systems can request a waiver from the state on the minimum number of days schools must be open.
Prince George's students have missed eight days so far, four more than allotted.
"First, we're going to seek a waiver from the state. Of course, we don't know how many days they will waive. But, if we have to, we'll go back to the calendar and look at it possibly Memorial Day, professional development days for teachers or add additional days to the end of the school year," she said.
And there is no exemption for graduating seniors. They must complete the same predetermined number of school days, she said.
Paul Regnier, spokesman for Fairfax schools, said classes would be extended for three additional days at the end of the school year to make up for the days students missed owing to inclement weather. Classes will be held June 23-25, he said.
Barbara Hunter, spokeswoman for Alexandria schools, said they have used their three budgeted snow days. Today marks snow day No. 5 for the city's schools. She said classes were canceled today to keep children safe.
"A lot of sidewalks aren't even cleared and children would be waiting in the streets," Ms. Hunter said.
"The School Board will meet tonight [to] decide on how to make up the three days, just in case there's another snow day this year," she said.
D.C. Superintendent Paul L. Vance canceled classes in the District for the third consecutive day this week after visiting several neighborhoods.
D.C. public schools have used all four of their allotted snow days for this school year.
"I never like to close school because I believe that each instructional learning day is extremely valuable to accelerating academic excellence for our children," Mr. Vance said. "However, my personal observation and inspection of snow removal around schools leads me to err on the side of caution and safety for our students."
To date, D.C. students must make up three days because of the snow. The additional days can be added to the end of the school year or during spring break, but that decision would have to be made between D.C. school officials and the unions. School officials will meet with unions in April to decide which option to use, a spokesman said.

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