Monday, January 27, 2020
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For want of a snow day at winter’s warm end

Snow days have in recent years been given in various Maryland school districts preemptively, based on forecasting models from the National Weather Service. Sometimes districts would call a snow day before any snow had even fallen in the county.

Then, when schools call these emergency days off in the middle of winter, students have to make up those days of school attendance in order to be in school at least 180 days for the school year. That number is a state law in both Maryland and Illinois.

In order to make up the days, many districts have cut spring break short in order to spare graduation dates and summer breaks.

Except this year is different: While the random day off in the middle of winter has been a relief for students and teachers alike, the weather this winter has been just too warm to bring any snow to speak of in the Baltimore area. Harford County, in the northeast corner of the state, would typically have at least a few snow days every year; this year, none.

“Here in Aberdeen, we have been experiencing unusual warm weather, making students and teachers ache for any chance at getting a snow day—even though this weather is quite pleasurable,” writes Tanisha Grimsley in The Blue and Gold, the student newspaper at Aberdeen High School.

She says the reason for the unusual warmth is the jet stream, quoting The Weather Channel as saying that an upper-level ridge of high pressure has developed, as the jet stream stays to the north.

“Last year … in Aberdeen [we had a] total snowfall of 29.49 inches. However, this year [we’ve had] a total of 0.12 inches,” she reports. More may be on the way in the next few days, but not enough to call a snow day.


Baltimore graphical weather forecast as of Tuesday morning (wunderground.com)

If there are no snow days to make up, students could get a whole week off for spring break, which is typically the time Harford County Public Schools make up the snow days they need. Ms Grimsley says she can’t remember the last time that happened.

By this date last year, Harford County students had lost three days that were part of spring break, after winter snow closed schools for eight days thus far. (Schools normally build five days for snow, cold, or heat emergencies into the calendar.) Students were facing a distinct possibility of being in school until June 20—the price for snow days.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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