Blizzard shakes up MCPS

Due to the severe storms that hit the area this winter, MCPS cancelled nine school days, exceeding the four contingency days currently built into the school calendar.

While the calendar calls for five days to be added to the end of the school year, extending it until June 23, this schedule has since been reversed and the school year will now end as planned.

According to Dana Tofig, MCPS Director of Public Information, the state Board of Education (BOE) requires that students attend 180 days of school. However, because Governor Martin O’Malley declared a state of emergency Feb. 5, Maryland counties are now eligible to deduct snow days.

According to a Feb. 23 Maryland state BOE press release, the state is accepting requests from school systems to waive up to five missed days. MCPS has decided to deduct all five days from the end of its calendar, keeping the last day of school at June 16. 

Despite the missed school days, the school system has not saved much money from keeping school buildings closed.

“Eighty to 90 percent of the budget is fixed, so snow closings will not affect it,” Tofig said. “Although there may be some fuel savings [from buses and heating], all the snow we’ve had this year will offset it [due to plowing costs], so closing school isn’t really saving us much.”

School closures mainly depend upon the county government’s response to snow. According to the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, it takes about 16 hours to plow streets after a three-inch snowfall and 48-60 hours to plow streets after a 24-inch snowfall.

During February’s two winter storms, the total snowfall was approximately 47 inches. During the first storm on Feb. 5-6, the county measured 32 inches of snow, which took them around 85 to 90 hours to clean. When the snow stopped on Saturday, the county needed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to clean up. The second storm on Feb. 9-10 dropped another 15 inches of snow, which took 35 to 40 hours to clean, eliminating the possibility of school that Thursday and Friday.

While MCPS is only responsible for plowing school sidewalks and parking lots, school is usually cancelled if neighborhood streets have not been plowed.

“[The BOE] must consider the safety of main travel roads and neighborhood streets,” Tofig said. “We also look to see if students can safely stand at bus stops and get on and off the bus, and if teachers and staff are able to get to schoolq