published Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Week of snow days give students extra-long break


by Kelli Gauthier
  • photo
    Anna-Blair Self, 10, wipes out after her sled hits the pavement of Park Road on Lookout Mountain on Wednesday.
    Staff photo by Jake Daniels

When Hamilton County and thousands of other public school students return to school Tuesday it will be only their fourth full day of school since Dec. 16.

Thanks to a two-week winter break, an entire week of snow days and Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, many area students will have been out of school for about one-third the length of a typical summer vacation.

Students in Catoosa County haven't been to school at all since Christmas break.

Catoosa County parent Kaylee Smith is the only one home with her children since her husband is deployed with the military. Everybody in her house is ready for school to start up again, she said Wednesday in a Facebook message.

"We are enjoying playing in the snow very much, but you know it's been a long time when even the kiddos are ready to go back," she said. "And then there's the fact that mommy needs a break!"

While the snowstorm sent many kids to area hills for sledding, freezing temperatures left many secondary roads icy and hazardous.

CLOSED TODAY

• Bledsoe County

• Chickamauga City

• Dade County

• Dalton City

• Grundy County

• Marion County

• Sequatchie County

• Whitfield County

CLOSED UNTIL TUESDAY

• Hamilton County

• University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

• Chattanooga State Community College

• Bradley County

• Catoosa County

• Chattooga County

• Cleveland County

• Murray County

• Rhea County

• Walker County

Cleveland City Schools also canceled classes until Tuesday, and Director Rick Denning said roads still are in bad condition.

"I can't get out of my driveway. There's about 3 inches of ice," he said. "I took the dogs out this morning and they both fell. I knew it was bad."

The situation is much the same all over Hamilton County.

"It's not safe for students and staff to get to schools and even for them to get in the buildings once they're there," said Danielle Clark, spokeswoman for Hamilton County Schools. "We don't have the equipment as a system to plow our own parking lots."

After canceling classes all week, Hamilton County now has used up the seven inclement weather days it banked at the beginning of the school year. The system now must cut into the six planned teacher professional development days or extend the school year later in May. Clark said either decision would have to be approved by the Hamilton County Board of Education.

Hamilton County teachers are paid even when school is canceled for snow, Clark said.

School systems in Georgia all are given four snow days, said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education. If school systems go beyond those four days — as many North Georgia districts now have — they must make up the additional time through longer classes or extra days or submit a waiver to the state Department of Education, he said.

"They can make adjustments at the local level however they wish to make up that time," he said.

The extra-long hiatus from school has created a burden for many working parents since school closings force them to find emergency child care.

Pharmacist Cynthia Waldron has left her two children, 9-month-old Tessa and 4-year-old Taylor, with two different neighbors and a woman from church this week. On Wednesday, she was wracking her brain about who could take her kids today because Taylor's preschool at Grace Baptist Academy is closed.

"I'm pretty sure [Tessa's] day care will be open tomorrow, so I'm relieved about that," she said. "It's easier to get people to keep just one child."

Once students finally return to school, some teachers recognize they face an uphill battle getting their charges back into the learning groove.

"I'm confident that I can cover what I need to cover and catch the kids up, but yes, any time anything happens to get them out of their routine, they get hyper," said Barbara Henry, an English teacher at Central High School. "That first day may be kind of rough."

Staff writer Ben Benton contributed to this story.

Follow Kelli Gauthier on Twitter

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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Tax_Payer said...

A good reason to cancel Spring Break.

January 13, 2011 at 4:02 a.m.
Milrose said...

I had to stay home to fight off a nasty virus. Glad that my sick time won't impact my study time.

January 13, 2011 at 7:20 a.m.
dendod said...

Since Dr. "Can't teach a dog to fetch a stick" Scales is in charge, everyone needs to read the cancellation notices to their children.

January 13, 2011 at 5:07 p.m.
dendod said...

Junior can't read. Thank you Dr. Scales.

January 13, 2011 at 8:15 p.m.
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