- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2004

D.C. students bundled up against the cold yesterday morning as they made their way gingerly along icy, snow-covered sidewalks to the only public schools open in the metropolitan area.

Acting schools Superintendent Elfreda W. Massie decided early yesterday to open schools two hours late after inclement weather resulted in canceled classes Monday and Tuesday for more than 65,000 District students.

School officials said the decision was made once it was determined that walkways would be safe enough for students to navigate.

“Custodians are in charge of clearing the sidewalks and steps around the school,” said Gregory Williams, director of operation and management for the Office of Facilities Management. “All schools have or have access to a snowblower and shovels.”

But Jessima Littlejohn, a fourth-grader at Webb Elementary School in Northeast, said the walkways were still difficult to navigate.

“Yeah, it was slippery getting to school,” said Jessima, 9, of 16th Street NE. “I’ll be slipping and sliding [going home],” she said.

Amy Jones, principal at Webb said many of her students who walk to school did not attend yesterday despite the sidewalks being relatively clean.

“Only about 50 percent of our students were present,” Miss Jones said.

Bill Rice, spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said property owners are obligated to clear sidewalks in front of their homes eight hours after a snowstorm, but there is no penalty for noncompliance.

“They are required by law to [clear the sidewalks], but we don’t enforce the rule that strongly,” Mr. Rice said yesterday. “We emphasize persuasion and responsibility to the owners.”

Some parents were glad District schools were open.

“D.C. kids need to be in school as much as they can,” said Jeannine Williams, who came to Park View Elementary School in Northwest to pick up her 9-year-old twin sons.

“They’re hanging out on the streets too much,” she said. “But they don’t need to be in school when there’s no heat.”

Mrs. Williams said Park View students had to come to school last Friday when the school was without heat.

As 9-year-old Jessica and her brother John, 3, walked down the sidewalk in front of Park View after leaving school, they tried to shield their faces from the icy wind that blew toward them. Jessica grasped her brother’s hand and held on to her hood with her other hand.

Pedestrians near Raymond Elementary School in Northwest walked in the streets instead of on the sidewalk in front of the school. Seniors with canes and young men clad in thermal jumpsuits glanced over their shoulders every now and then to see if there was any oncoming traffic along Spring Road.

LaShelle Taylor, 32, said the short walk from her home had not posed too much of a challenge yesterday morning, but she could see icy patches on the sidewalks leading to the school.

“I didn’t slide this morning, but these sidewalks are bad and they need to be cleared. Although, I have seen worse,” she said.

Jon Ward contributed to this report.

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