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Snow creates headaches for Pa. school officials

February 24, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

Though school districts in Franklin County have various solutions to dealing with the abundance of snow days this winter, school officials agree the unexpected school cancellations wreak havoc on their schedules.

"There is a considerable toll when you disrupt the schedule of an operation as big as the Chambersburg Area School District," Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said. "It is stressful and a lot gets lost, whether it's lesson planning, lectures or homework."

Greencastle-Antrim School District Superintendent P. Duff Rearick said snow days upset the breaks school officials build into the calendar.

"It's sheer educational fact that when you're in school learning, you need a break. We're burning time now that everyone needs later," Rearick said, pointing out that a two-week Christmas break ended not too long ago.

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"When you put 3,000 people in small proximity, there is a lot of stress, and from time to time we need a break if we want to keep up learning productivity," he said.

But students have lost some of those days off later this spring, and time has already been tacked on to the end of the school year in some districts.

Rearick said Greencastle-Antrim builds six vacation days into the school year or at the end to use as make-up days in case of inclement weather. This winter's heavy snowfall already has exhausted all of those days.

Any future snow days this winter will come off the three-day Easter break or possibly be added to the end of the year, he said.

Right now, the final day of classes is June 11 in Greencastle.

Administrators planned to use Presidents Day as a make-up snow day, but the 2-foot snowfall canceled classes in the district last Monday and Tuesday.

In Chambersburg, students were not affected by last Monday's bad weather - the district was already off for the Presidents Day holiday.

But Tuesday's closure meant losing April 21, the day after Easter, as a vacation day, Sponseller said.

The Board of School Directors voted earlier this month to use that day for a snow day rather than shift graduation and the final day of classes from June 6.

Sponseller said under state law, the district must provide 180 days of instruction, and it typically sets a 183-day calendar to allow for some school closings.

With six snow days so far, those days are gone and classes have been rescheduled March 21, which was scheduled to be a spring break day; April 17, which was to be a staff development day; and April 21.

The Tuscarora School District now has to find away to make up the most recent two snow days, Superintendent William Konzal said.

"We will look at switching teacher in-service days, but if worse comes to worse we'll be adding on to the end of the year," he said. "We would rather not do that because the rooms will be hot."

Right now, the final day of classes and graduation are scheduled for June 6, a date he would rather not touch because people began making plans early to bring in out-of-state relatives for graduation.

"At the present time we are under the assumption we still could get another snow day, which could affect graduation," he said.

"We've been let off the hook the last several years," Konzal said, referring to the previous mild winters.

With schools closed last Monday and Tuesday and a late opening Wednesday, Konzal said the snow disrupts schedules.

"You lose a certain amount of continuity," he said.

The Waynesboro Area School District also has to find a way to make up the most recent snow days. District officials planned to use Presidents Day as a make-up day for a snow day earlier this winter, according to Assistant Superintendent Gloria Pugliano.

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