Winter snow days lead to extra school in spring

Freshman Sam Short destroys a snow fort he built during the Feb. 1 snow day. (Photo courtesy of Tara Bray)

Kevin Killeen
Editor in Chief

A white blanket of snow covers the ground as the phone rings early in the morning. The caller ID lights up reading, “Webster Groves School District.”

No one picks up; it’s too early, but a message is left on the answering machine, and the monotonous daily burden of attending school is suddenly lifted off students as they remain slumbering through the rest of their morning.

Snow day.

This year, the once rare occurrence of a snow day has become more familiar with students and staff, as the Webster Groves School District has had four days off this year, due to snow (as of press time).
“In my 15 years here, this is the most days we’ve missed, and I hope we’re able to go the rest of the year without missing anymore,” said principal Dr. Jon Clark.

To most students, a snow day is seen as an opportunity to sleep in late, maybe go sledding and enjoy the break from school.

“It’s a good thing to get a break,” said senior Blake Hudson. “I love snow days.”
However, to some teachers and staffers, a snow day is seen not only as a break, but a disruption from the schedules they have made to teach their classes.

“I had a class I didn’t see for six days,” said Latin teacher Jeff Smith. “It messes up the teachers that have everything planned out.”

According to special state requirements, schools are required to have a certain number of minutes and days within a full school year. The Webster Groves School District already had three off, days built into the system, so having a fourth day off means making up extra time at the end of the school year.

“We’re going to have to make up one day at the end of the year. At the high school level we’ll probably look at one of the half days being a full day and tacking on some extra time to exams,” said superintendent Dr. Sarah Riss.

On a snowy winter morning, Riss is the person who decides the fate of her students and staff, determining whether it should be a snow day or not.

Her morning starts at 3:30 a.m., when her alarm clock goes off. She doesn’t drink coffee, but she grabs a diet soda and takes it in the car as she gets ready to test the snowy roads. She feels for subzero wind chills and watches for slippery patches of ice and accumulating amounts of snow as she determines whether it will be safe enough for her students and administration to go to school.

“I’ve got to consider the safety of the students and staff,” said Riss.

Riss’s routine then carries on, as she drives to every elementary school, hixson and the high school, testing the safety of the roads.

“If I’m sliding through stop signs, that’s not a good sign,” said Riss.

Then Riss gets on a conference call, with about 15-20 people, all other superintendents from around the area. They discuss the safety of the roads and determine whether to have school or not. If Riss decides to call school, then around 5 a.m., she gets on the phone, calls the district and cancels school.
The winter snow this year has caused some districts in other areas to cancel more than a week of school.

“Some schools have missed 10-14 days in other areas of the state,” said Riss.

Riss praises the custodial staff for the work they’ve done making it safe for student to come to school.

“They had been out probably 24 hours shoveling the snow,” said Riss. “If it hadn’t been for their hard work, we probably would’ve missed a few extras days of school.”

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