Archive for Wednesday, March 7, 2001

Tonganoxie schools cutting it close with snow days

March 7, 2001

Winter snows that kept school doors closed in December, January and February have resulted in a close call on meeting the state's minimum attendance requirement.

Richard Erickson, Tonganoxie school superintendent, is keeping his fingers crossed.

So far the district's hours are in the black. Barring further school snow cancellations, the rest of the school year should go as scheduled.

Here are the numbers.

Erickson said the state sets a minimum attendance of 186 six-hour days, or roughly 1,116 hours.

Tonganoxie's calendar, set before the school year began, calls for 180 six-hour and 33-minute days, adding up to about 1,179 hours.

Of these days, four days the first and last days of school and the days before Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks were set ahead of time to be half-days.

Subtracting 12 hours for those half days, Erickson said, brings the district down to 1,167 hours.

Since December, students have missed 6.75 days because of snow, which Erickson said reduces the attendance time by another 44 hours, bringing the total scheduled attendance for the year, as of today, to 1,123 hours.

At the high school and elementary school, there are seven hours left that could be used for a snow day. At the junior high, which was closed for one teacher in-service day in February (half of that time counts toward attendance hours), only about one-half snow day could be taken without requiring made-up hours at a later date.

But Erickson said the slim margin wouldn't sway his opinion if another snow were to blanket the area.

"Safety is always first," he said. "We don't want to put our students in jeopardy. We'll take the snow day and if we fall below that minimum 1,116 hours, then we'll start making some days up."

Erickson said if that decision were made, board members and teachers would have input.

"At this time, I would assume we would put the days on at the end of May, but I'm flexible about it," Erickson said.

Although this year's snow falls have seemed to be a rarity, Erickson said he would like to visit with the county about the possibility of getting snow plows out earlier in the mornings to enable buses to run.

"The county's maintenance people start plowing the roads at about 5 or 5:30 in the morning," Erickson said. "If we could have had them start earlier, around 2 or 2:30, and have them plow the most severe areas, then we would have had school on maybe two or three of the days that we canceled."

Another idea Erickson would like to examine is to establish snow routes, where on snowy days parents could drive their children to specified sites to meet buses.

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