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Schools scramble to get ready to open Tuesday

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By Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 15, 2010; 11:34 AM

School systems across the Washington area raced against time Monday to dig out buildings for Tuesday's resumption of classes.

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Fairfax County officials are calling for volunteers to shovel their local schools. Arlington County has asked property owners to clear sidewalks so that students can get to class, and it has delayed the start of school by two hours on Tuesday. Prince William and Montgomery counties are requesting that residents check their bus stops.

"If people live near bus stops . . . and they can make sure that the bus stop is clear, that will help a tremendous amount to ensure the safety of our students," said Dana Tofig, a spokesman for Montgomery County schools.

Monday afternoon, Montgomery County announced it was opening schools two hours late on Tuesday. (A full, continuously updated list of school closures is available here.)

Most school systems vowed that they would reopen Tuesday. But real challenges clearly remain, with sidewalks still covered in iced-over snow, streets narrowed by small embankments of ice and minor snow accumulations predicted for Monday afternoon and evening.

Alexandria is planning to open Tuesday two hours late for grades pre-K through 5 and two-and-a-quarter hours late for grades 6 through 12.

Howard County schools threw in the towel Sunday and canceled Tuesday's classes, saying that there was simply too much snow to ensure the safety of their students.

"Some streets are still covered with ice, and others are too narrow for buses to fit down safely," said Howard County schools Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin in a news release. "The high piles of snow create real visibility issues."

Before the second round of last week's storms, Fairfax schools planned to hold class Monday to make up for time already lost to snow. They pushed that back to Tuesday and still plan to open, said schools spokesman Paul Regnier. But he said Monday that there was work yet to be done on parking lots and sidewalks around the schools.

"Some look pretty good, and some look not so good," he said.

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