Snow fell across the state of Maryland on Wednesday, covering St. Mary’s County with 1 to 3 inches of icy snow.
It snowed throughout the morning, followed by rain in the afternoon through the end of the day Wednesday, with temperatures in the mid-30s, according to the National Weather Service.
The weather caused closures across St. Mary’s. All county government administrative offices were closed, and classes were canceled at St. Mary’s public and private schools as well as at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and the College of Southern Maryland.
Wednesday was the third snow day for the public school system this school year. Previous snow days fell on Dec. 10 and Jan. 14. The school board builds five snow days into the school calendar. Any days missed beyond that have to be made up one way or another.
Jill Morris, president of the Education Association of St. Mary’s County, said the snow days could cause some conflict on the calendar.
“The school calendar this year is challenging as we had to start after Labor Day and students have to be out by June 15,” Morris said.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed an executive order in 2016 that made Maryland public schools start class after Labor Day, instead of in August as many counties opted to do. School is still expected to end on June 15 — leaving local school boards scrambling to fit in the required 180 days of classes per school year.
Current legislation is combatting the order by calling to let local school boards once again decide the start and end dates of the annual school calendars.
For now, however, school systems must work with what they have.
Cathy Allen, vice chairperson for the St. Mary’s school board, said the school calendar has three days at the end of the year to use in case of snow days.
With all those days used up, she said they also have two days during the year they can use if needed. The first day was Presidents Day, which was used as a holiday this year.
“The second is April 22, which is the Monday after Easter and is the last day of spring break,” she said. “We would need a waiver to be allowed to use that one since it is required by law as a day off, but has been allowed in the past.”
Allen said any days off after that would require the board to request a waiver from the state, asking for additional school days likely tacked on to the end of the school year.
Public schools are required to provide at least 180 days for students and 190 duty days for teachers. School policy also says that “holidays, spring break, or days added at the end of the school year will be considered if additional days are needed.”
Two power outages occurred Wednesday evening around 5 p.m. and Thursday morning, localized to the southern part of the county. Neither had to do with the icy weather, but instead a circuit breaker opened after a voltage irregularity was detected at Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative substation on Buck Hewitt Road, said Tom Dennison, director of government and public affairs for SMECO. Work to restore the failed relay caused the circuit breakers to open again, leading to another outage that included a base-wide shutdown yesterday morning at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.
The St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission reported a wastewater effluent bypass at the Marlay-Taylor Water Reclamation Facility in Lexington Park. The bypass of approximately 80,000 gallons of fully treated wastewater effluent occurred was a result of the power outage that morning, according to a county release. As a precaution, public contact to the waters of Pine Hill Run should be avoided for 10 days.
Staff writer Taylor DeVille contributed to this report.