Classes are back in session for schools in Lee’s Summit and almost back to normal, but not soon enough for some administrators.
R-7 School District Superintendent David McGehee said the district canceled five days of classes the week of Feb. 3 due to unsafe road conditions caused by the snowstorm that swept through the area, as well as arctic cold temperatures that preceded and followed the 9-10 inch whiteout.
Student, teacher and employee safety was first and foremost on McGehee’s mind.
“I’ve been here eight years (as Superintendent)…I haven’t experienced a week like this since my days back in Sparta, Mo. in rural southwest Missouri where we pretty much had all country roads and creek slabs and things like that to ride across,” McGehee said Feb. 10 as the district resumed classes. “Obviously we got more ice than some of the districts to the north or us; so it was road conditions and sight conditions on (Feb. 3) and pretty much the road conditions after Monday.
“It was pretty obvious for two or three days there for sure, but Friday was a combination of things. The roads were getting a little better, but the temperature was still pretty cold. When it’s cold like that you want to be careful with it.”
Even a flurry of snow the afternoon of Feb. 9 threatened to derail the district’s plan of resuming classes the next day.
“This morning wasn’t a lot different than Friday, but the overall conditions of the roads led us to believe we could keep buses moving and it would be safe to go,” McGehee said.
The R-7 calendar shows the school year will end May 28, instead of May 19. The last day of school is a half day, said McGehee, an admitted stickler for routine who added he personally does not like to cancel classes in the district.
“We’ve actually lost six total days,” he said. “Our school calendar puts everything on the end. Long before I came to the district, the community had spoken about protecting (spring and summer breaks) because they schedule vacations and things like that.”
At Our Lady of the Presentation School, the principal said the school builds in snow days in case of inclement weather. Students only missed classes Feb 4-6 because of the weather.
“We have a 181 day calendar and are mandated by the Diocese to finish with 177 instructional days,” Presentation Principal Jodi Briggs said. “We have used our four ‘built in’ snow days and as of now our last day will stay as it is on the calendar, May 23.”
Unlike R-7 schools, Presentation doesn’t provide transportation for its students, so considering the safety of bus routes was not a part of the equation there, Briggs said. She added together with the other Diocese schools in the southeastern Jackson County ‘pod’ the principals talk and make a determination based on the weather factors in the area.
“We typically do not close because of cold or side street conditions but did close Jan. 6 due to the ‘life-threatening’ cold conditions,” she said, accounting for the fourth day of missed classes at Presentation so far this school year. “We have the option of a 10 a.m. late start but chose to close on Thursday (Feb. 6) due to the refreezing of roads, extreme cold and the side street conditions.”
Class this week “has been business as usual at Presentation,” Briggs said. “We are back to working hard on our curriculum and preparing to take the ITBS tests the first of March so we really don’t want any more snow days.”
Summit Christian Academy Secondary Principal and Director of Operations Emir Esparza said the school missed a total of three days last week. Classes at SCA were called off Feb 4-6 as well as Jan. 6.
Unlike the R-7 district and Presentation, SCA will make up the days missed almost immediately as opposed to late in the school year with class in session Feb. 14 and Feb. 17, previously scheduled days off.
The final day for the 2013-14 school year at SCA remains May 20, Esparza said.
“With the two make-up days being added so quickly after the snow days, the faculty feels confident about moving forward in the curriculum without any issues,” he said. “The students came back on Friday and with the help of our faculty, were ready to pick-up with the curriculum where they left-off.”
Esparza added the facilities crew at the school worked tirelessly, putting in 16-hour days to make parking lots and sidewalks safe for students to return to school Feb. 7.
Like Presentation, SCA does not provide transportation for its students.
“The safety of our families and students is our first priority when we cancel school,” Esparza said. “Since all of our families and students drive to school, before making the call, we make certain that the area around our school is clear and the roads are safe for the students.”