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From Snow Days to Make-Up Days

Because of the snow and ice this week, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools has five more days to make up.

The scheduled make-up days are June 7 for Monday, Dec. 10; June 10 for Tuesday, Dec. 11; June 11 for Wednesday, Dec. 12; and March 29 for Thursday, Dec. 13. The make-up calendar for the 2018-19 school year doesn’t have other make-up days already scheduled. So the Board of Education will determine a make-up day for Friday, Dec. 14 at a later date.

The board also has the option to make changes in any of the scheduled make-up days. 

Southwest 22 By Kim Underwood

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

DECEMBER 14, 2018 – Serious snow in December is unusual. This much snow is remarkable for any month. People have said they can’t remember the last time this much snow fell in Forsyth County.

Although school being closed because of snow can be highly disruptive for students and their families, at times, the break from school can be welcome for some people.

These days, Kenneth Simington is the Deputy Superintendent for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. Back during the 1978-79 school year, he was a high school student playing point guard for the basketball team at East Forsyth High School.

When the East Forsyth basketball team headed into the North Forsyth gym one Tuesday night in February of 1979, the sky was overcast. When they came out after a game that did not go well for East Forsyth, the ground was covered with snow. 

“We got blown out,” Simington said. “So I was glad we didn’t go to school the rest of the week. We were out Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”

That meant the Friday game was cancelled. By the next week, the players were back in the mood to play some basketball.

This December snow is unusual.

WS/FC Schools records that go back to the 1963-64 school year show that January and February are the months most likely to bring enough snow to close schools.

Until this year, schools had closed for snow in December only five times. The last time that happened was during the 2003-04 school year.

Snow 27 Out of the 206 snow days since the 1963-64 school year, only 15 of them have been in December. January has the most with 115, and 65 have come in February. Every so often, a tardy snow storm will close schools in March.

Hurricanes – and, once, a tornado – have also closed schools in September and May.

With this latest storm having dumped so much snow on roads in the city and county and on school campuses, it means that students will be making up five days. The scheduled make-up days are June 7, June 10, June 11, March 29 and one more day to be determined later by the Board of Education.

The board also has the option to make changes in any of the scheduled make-up days. 

School has had to be out so many days, in part, because the heavy snow that came this past weekend brought more challenges than other snows in recent years. Many of those are associated with how deep the snow was. Others are associated with the continuing freezing temperatures.

In many cases, snow plow equipment that worked just fine with snow that was 3 or 4 inches deep could not be used with this snow. So the equipment that was effective had to be used at more schools, meaning that it took longer to get to some schools.

The time that crews have been able to work on clearing lots and sidewalks each day was also shortened by the freezing temperatures. In some cases, the snow and ice was so hard that clearing could not begin until after 9:30 a.m. or so when it had thawed enough. And then, once the snow/ice started refreezing in late afternoon, work had to be stopped for the day.  

Even when a school parking lot had been cleared, some people coming to schools discovered they couldn’t get into the lot because the access had been blocked by mounds of snow created when streets were plowed later.

And the heavy snow caused damage at some schools. For instance, at Walkertown Elementary the heavy snow caused a walkway awning to collapse.

Then there are the challenges of getting students safely to school even if schools were ready to go. In a number of cases, streets have not yet been plowed, and snow/ice continues to create hazardous driving conditions.

School buses would not be able to drive down some streets at all. And, even if they were, they could not turn around on some dead-end streets or cul-de-sacs.

Even when streets have been plowed, not all lanes were cleared on some streets. And, in many neighborhoods, cars have parked along the snow plow lines, and buses could not safely pass.

And then there are the hazards for students. Sidewalks are still covered making it, with all of the melting and refreezing, difficult – and dangerous – to walk on them. And, with mounds of snow on plowed streets, it would be difficult – and dangerous – for students to try to get to buses.

From time to time, the school system makes it all the way through a school year without having to close for snow, a hurricane or other weather disturbances. The most recent school year with no closing was 2011-12. That was also the case for the 1985-86, the 1991-92, the 1997-98, and 2000-01 school years.

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In all the years, Simington has been a WS/FCS student and employee, this year is a first when it comes to the amount of snow.

“I don’t recall ever having this much snow,” he said.

Back when Simington was going to school, the process of scheduling make-up days was more informal. Once school was back in session, the board of education would determine the make-up day(s). On rare occasions, a make-up day could be a Saturday.

In the early 1980s, school boards began setting up a formal schedule for make-up days.

The way people find out about school being out for snow has also changed quite a bit over the years. With so many people having smart phones and getting information from all over, and, with school system calling families and employees and posting notices on the website, people know shortly after school officials make the decision.

When Simington was growing up, everyone would get up in the morning and turn on TV or the radio to find out whether they would be going to school.

If school was out, he and his friends would catch up later and poke around for the day. With wooden sleds with metal runners painted red, they would hope that the snow had some ice mixed in so the sled didn’t plunk down in the snow. With the advent of large plastic discs, shooting across the snow could be done on different kinds of snow. 

Once Simington was adult, days missed for snow weren’t as much fun and created problems for him –  as they do for so many people.

After joining the WS/FC school system as a counselor, he worked at what was then Hanes Middle. (It became Hanes Magnet in 2007.) The 1995-96 school year was a particularly snowy year. At the time, Simington was working on his doctorate. With his dissertation on middle school students having problems with discipline, he was regularly speaking to students.

“I needed to be in school,” Simington said. “I needed students.”

Unfortunately, that was the year school was closed for 12 days because of the weather.

After being out for a whole week – Jan. 8-12 – the snow days kept coming with two more in January and another five in February.

Twelve days is the most missed because of weather since the 1963-64 school year. In 1986-87, schools were closed for 11 days, and, in 2002-03, for 10 days.

 

 

  

Kim Underwood
rkunderwood@wsfcs.k12.nc.us
336.727.2696