Chattanooga area teachers, parents thankful for snow-less snow day [document]

Chattanooga area teachers, parents thankful for snow-less snow day [document]

January 29th, 2019 by Meghan Mangrum in Local Regional News

Staff photo by Doug Strickland / Julia Stone turns around her sled to hike back up a hill at Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, in Signal Mountain, Tenn. Predicted snowfall missed Chattanooga but accumulated in higher elevations and the surrounding region.

Document: Inclement Weather Lesson

Hamilton County Schools provided parents with recommended lesson links and suggestions for activities for students who were stuck at home due to school closings. The school district and dozens of others in the area have closed for varying time periods due to inclement weather this week.

Despite an anti-climactic result to Tuesday's "Snowpocalypse" in some parts of the community, educators and parents seemed grateful for the day off from school.

Though snow days can result in a loss of instructional time and inconvenience for parents who must hustle to find care for their children, many people the Times Free Press spoke with said they were happy with the district's decision Monday afternoon to close schools Tuesday.

"School administration has to go with the best information they have, and they'll take flak no matter what they do. No win," said Chris Varner, whose son, Henry, spent the snow day running in the cold. The seventh-grader at Normal Park Museum Magnet met up with his coach in Renaissance Park to practice.

Katie Mara, a social studies teacher at Orchard Knob Middle School, said weather delays are expected this time of year and teachers "just have to roll with it."

"As a teacher during some of the most exhausting months of the school year, snow days are welcome whether they are 'real' or not," she said.

The district, though, is cognizant of the loss of learning time and interruption to student schedules, said Justin Robertson, chief of schools for Hamilton County Schools.

"Any time you miss a day you're going to have an impact," Robertson said.

That added stress can fall back on teachers, both he and Mara emphasized.

For Tuesday's "snow day," the district actually sent out recommendations to parents for lessons or activities students could complete when they weren't in classes.

The recommendations include reading with elementary-aged children, links to math games and online videos for older students and even activities such as choreographing a weather-based dance or completing a virtual tour of an art museum for older students.

The activities weren't meant to supersede the homework or assignments that many teachers try to emphasize in advance of inclement weather days.

"It's a hard balance, because we are currently in the push to finish all the standards before TNReady but we need a break sometimes," Mara said. "We just have to be ready to increase the rigor of instruction to meet state expectations."

Elizabeth Baker, a former candidate for the Hamilton County Commission and a Signal Mountain parent, said she was happy the district made the decision to close schools but she still hopes for more transparency on the process.

Baker spoke at a recent school board meeting and called for the district to establish a firm procedure for how it makes these decisions and what factors are considered when deciding to delay or close schools.

"I'm always happy when they cancel because I enjoy time with my kids. I don't need to make other arrangements and rush around, but I always think of the parents who do not have that flexibility or luxury," Baker said. "I still want to know what is the process of making that call, who is on that team gathering that information, if there is a published procedure. It would be good for parents to understand what goes into those decisions."

Several surrounding school districts remain closed Wednesday. Hamilton County Schools is running on a two-hour delay due to temperatures below freezing expected Tuesday night.

"No travel problems are expected, but we are instituting the two-hour delay out of an abundance of caution to provide daylight for bus travel and our young teen drivers," said Tim Hensley, spokesman for the district, in a statement Tuesday.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.