Rescuing melted moments

29th March 1996 at 00:00
The century's worst winter has left school districts on the US East Coast trying to make up for cancelled days, but even so millions of students are likely to lose out.

Schools in Maryland, Virginia and other states have asked for the law requiring them to operate 180 days a year to be waived this year. Pennsylvania schools have already won this concession.

"We have not been able to devise a satisfactory method of regaining the instructional time lost because of record snow and ice this winter," said Robert Spillane, superintendent of public schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, The district, in the suburbs of Washington DC, planned for up to three days of cancelled classes this year, but had to call off school nine times.

The biggest blizzard in the region's history buried the area between Atlanta and Boston the week of January 8, forcing even New York City schools to close for the first time in nearly 20 years. When schools reopened, some roads were impassable and attendance fell dramatically. Classes were cancelled again in many areas by subsequent storms on February 16 and March 8 in a winter that set new total snowfall records.

Some schools opened during the President's Day holiday and plan to do so again the Monday after Easter. Most districts have also extended the school year into the summer to make up for lost days.

"It's a tough situation," said Pam Weddington, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia District Schools, which missed six days. "The kids didn't mind too much when they got to stay home, but when they're still sitting in a classroom in mid-June, they might feel differently."

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