Snow Emergency Plan

Olivia Brooks – Staff Writer

An abundance of snow this year has given Howard County students several days of no school on November 15, January 14 and 30, and February 11 and 20. The school calendar, however, is built only with four inclement weather days and five have already been used. In order to compensate, the academic year has now been stretched to June 21, much to the exasperation of students.

Romina Daraei Baf, a ninth grade student, says, “I don’t think they should extend it to that long since we want to spend our summers freely.”

Making an academic calendar flexible enough to include all of the expected and unexpected circumstances surrounding schools, such as inclement weather, exams, state mandated testing, and even construction, is no easy task, as shown by the process necessary to construct one. The calendar is first developed by a Calendar Committee comprised of representatives for every position in the school system, from parents to principals. The calendar is then presented to the Superintendent, often amended or altered, and is finally given to the Board of Education for approval. It is the Board that makes the final decision.

One important rule factored in is that the state of Maryland mandates that students attend school for a minimum of 180 days, though local Boards of Education can require more days. Teachers, however, often have professional days during the academic year, and according to the Howard County Public School System website, the “current negotiated agreement between the Howard County Board of Education and the Howard County Education Association calls for teachers to work 192 days.”

Even though the intellectual performance of students is of utmost importance, many students point out that cutting into summer vacation is actually detrimental. As eleventh grader Kenneth Haraham points out, “I think that school should not be extended to June 21st, reason being, many people have other important activities to attend (internships, programs, and various other curriculars).”

What occurs in the school building is only a small piece of a student’s overall scholastic career. Many students have outside commitments that require attention over the summer, and denying them this could cause a loss of monetary or academic benefits.

MRHS Parking Lot Thief

Madison Costigan -Staff Writer

Many students at Marriotts Ridge choose to drive to school, but leaving their cars vulnerable during the day may be a problem.

Many students at Marriotts Ridge choose to drive to school, but leaving their cars vulnerable during the day may be a problem.

Students have reported missing items from their cars, as well as seeing someone in the parking lot that they do not recognize. Marriotts Ridge staff have warned students to stay vigilant and lock their cars, so that no one has access to the belongings inside.

In an interview with Marriotts Ridge School Resource Officer, Officer Willingham, he warned students to “always lock and secure your vehicle and do not leave your belongings in plain sight.” Students need to be conscious of how they are leaving their car for the day. “If you take away the opportunity for a crime to be committed, you will not be a target of a crime,” explained Officer Willingham. So by locking cars and putting things away so that no one can see them, students can decrease their chances of being a victim to a thief. And this vigilance can stand for any situation of crime, so students should always be careful and protect themselves and their property to their best ability. Officer Willingham also claimed that the investigation is ongoing, and if any students have any information or see anything unusual, they should tell him or a staff member.

Junior Megan Hughes had a story regarding the thief in the parking lot. “I had left school early one day, and a few days later I was called down to the office, and they asked if I had seen someone in the parking lot,” recalled Hughes. “I had not, but they showed me a video of someone getting into a random car when I came outside, and then getting out and leaving in another car.” It is nerve-wracking to think of a strange person on school property, especially if they have access to students’ cars. Students should be sure to secure their cars and follow the directions of Officer Willingham in order to keep their cars and belonging safe in the parking lot.

New Plan For Old Ellicott City

Photo Credit: Fie Klementsen

Brice Handel – News Editor

Less than a month into his administration, Calvin Ball has rolled out his “Safe and Sound” initiative with the goal of finding solutions to the deadly flooding that has tarnished Old Ellicott City. Ball’s predecessor, Alan Kittleman, had drafted a plan that called for the demolition of ten buildings along historic Main Street, but Ball fears that demolition is, “using a sledgehammer when only a scalpel is necessary.” He still plans on honoring the offers that have been made to Ellicott City business owners to buy their properties, but, for now, he’s holding back on demolition.

Before any permanent decisions are made, he is bringing in structural engineers to assess damages and determine the integrity of the buildings affected by the flooding. Ball’s plan also includes improvements to Howard County’s emergency public alert system and efforts to clean debris out of waterways. To fund these improvements, a matching grant program has been setup that includes $150,000 in funding, but Ball feels that won’t be enough to help all those affected. To secure more funding, he is collaborating with Delegate-Elect Courtney Watson and State Senator-Elect Katie Fry Hester to introduce legislation into the General Assembly that will secure more funding for the county.

Ellicott City business owners are grateful for Ball’s swift execution of his plan, stating that it’s difficult to remain open with the reduced foot traffic in Old Ellicott City. Many people are weary of visiting Old Ellicott City given the dangerous flooding that has occurred, but Ball hopes that his “Safe and Sound” initiative will restore the area to what it once was.

Calvin Ball’s Email Hacked

Brice Handel – News Editor

Days before Christmas, about 35,000 Howard County residents received emails from Netflix stating that their accounts would be cancelled if they didn’t update their payment information. However, this turned out to be an elaborate phishing scam that was orchestrated by hackers targeting Calvin Ball.

The Sunday before Christmas, hackers signed into Ball’s Constant Contact account which contained email distribution lists with thousands of emails. Hackers used these email lists to distribute emails that appeared to come from Netflix with the subject line “Account Cancellation.” Upon opening the email, recipients were greeted with a message explaining that in order for their subscription to remain in effect they needed to re-enter their payment details. It was a typical phishing scam where hackers posed as a credible business in order to gather sensitive information. The email included a link to a phony Netflix website where people could enter their payment details. Thankfully, less than 700 people clicked on the link out of the 35,000 that received the email.

Within about two hours, Constant Contact had suspended Ball’s account and deactivated the scam link contained in the email. Howard County Officials have ensured residents that no government databases were compromised and no confidential personal information was released. At this time, Ball’s Constant Contact account has been restored and there have been no more repercussions as a result of this incident.