Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Snow days prove costly for schools

February 6, 2002

At first glance, it might appear that a school district could save money by calling off classes for a snow day.

But that's not the case, said Tonganoxie school superintendent Richard Erickson.

By the time he tallied up the costs of last week's three days of snow cancellations, the numbers were hovering around the $80,000 mark.

Erickson said the district pays certified employees, regardless of whether school is held.

That salary paid on snow days signifies a loss of instructional time for children.

"With the certified salaries that we pay, it equates to about $23,000 per day of lost opportunity for kids," Erickson said. "It's a lot of money. I don't think people realize that."

An out-and-out money loser on snow days is the school district's food service. Erickson said that a year ago the food service budget was stressed because eight snow days resulted in a large loss in revenue.

According to Erickson's calculations, last week's three snow days translated to a $7,000 loss in revenue for the cafeterias.

Here's the breakdown of revenue shortfalls for each of the three snow days: elementary school, $825 a day; junior high school, $602 a day; and high school, $520 a day.

In addition to the direct loss in revenue, on snow days the school district also loses out on state and federal aid. Erickson estimated the district's state and federal revenue shortfall at $773 per day.

Last week, Erickson said he didn't believe the cafeterias experienced food spoilage. It helped that employees knew on Tuesday afternoon that a storm was moving in.

"That makes quite a bit of difference," Erickson said. "If the cooks had been here early in the morning and were in the process of preparing food when school was cancelled, we might have had some food wasted."

With the district's 19 bus routes cancelled for three days, the district saw a slight savings.

Bus drivers, like other classified employees, aren't paid when school is cancelled. He estimated bus drivers' salaries at $800 a day. And, Erickson said, fuel and wear and tear on buses would probably have totaled about $1,140 per day.

Because classes were cancelled for three consecutive days, the district only had to pay for one removal of snow.

Erickson said this normally costs the district from $800 to $1,100, depending on the severity of the storm.

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