The Times West Virginian

January 29, 2014

Safety of school kids takes top priority

Times West Virginian

— We have kind of lost track of the number of snow days Marion County has had for the 2013-14 calendar year.

It feels very much like children from preschool to high school seniors haven’t spent an awful lot of time in the classroom since at least Christmas. And they haven’t. We had a terrible cold snap the first week of January and the past two weeks have been a terrible mix of snowfall, icy conditions and subfreezing temperatures.

It all leads to unsafe conditions.

It is not safe to place children on school buses when roads are covered in snow, slush and ice. It is not safe to expect children to stand outside and wait for buses with windchill factors far below zero. It is not safe to expect children to wait for those buses along streets where up to a foot of snow has been scraped from the roads and piled against sidewalks, forcing them to stand in roadways.

The safety of our children should be paramount.

Yes, it has been a frustrating time for school administrators. The month of January has been a frustrating time for educators, too, who have had to prepare lesson plans and then scrap them to make up for time missed.

It is been a very frustrating time for parents and guardians, as many of them have had to make childcare arrangements to continue to work while the children are out of school.

And, honestly, it’s been a pretty frustrating time for school children as well, especially student athletes who have been unable to play games because of school cancellations. It’s going to be quite difficult to reschedule some, if any, of those games as the season ends.

But there’s very little that can be done this school calendar year. The calendar is set, and instruction is to end on June 6. Administrators and teachers will have to do everything they can to make up for nearly a month of missed instruction time to prepare their students for upcoming statewide tests.

Who knew when the calendar was set last year that we would exceed the eight snow days planned for? But we have to live with the calendar the way that it is now.

There are changes that will be made available to local boards of education, and our own BOE will have that conversation next week.

No matter what Punxsutawney Phil says this weekend, we have six more weeks of winter to live with. And if that means keeping kids outside of school for the day to keep them safe, we have to support that. There’s certainly a hierarchy of importance when it comes to the school system, but again, the safety of our children and the staff of the schools has got to come first.

Let’s make it through this year but plan for the next in a way that will meet the educational needs of our children while planning for worst case scenario when it comes to inclement weather.