The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Schools sidetracked by snow
School officials across the Fredericksburg region are scrambling to rewrite schedules for the rest of year after most have missed at least 10 days of school due to inclement weather.
From Standards of Learning tests to athletic schedules to final exams, snow and sleet have messed up plans in and out of the classroom for area schools.
Students in Spotsylvania have now missed 11 days of instruction due to snow and extreme cold.
And for some students, the trip back to school Monday, Feb. 17, was delayed more than two hours.
Thirteen bus drivers called in sick in Spotsylvania Monday, which was a makeup day for the county. While the division has 18 substitute drivers on standby each day, parents complained that buses were late.
Spotsylvania schools spokeswoman Rene Daniels said all bus runs were completed Monday, but some buses with substitute drivers may have arrived later in the pickup window of time.
The first five missed days were built into the 2013–14 calendar. Two additional days were made up through banked instructional time, and Feb. 17, March 28 and March 31 have become makeup time to account for another three missed school days.
However, that leaves the eleventh day unaccounted for.
The School Board will discuss what to do about that day and any future missed time at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Feb. 24.
“It is important to note that the goal is to make adjustments that do not affect spring break,” said School Board member Amanda Blalock.
In Stafford County, students will make up for lost time in the classroom by losing one teacher workday in April and by staying in school for three days that were previously early dismissals.
School officials have not yet decided if there will be more makeup days. According to the approved calendar, the school division could use June 16 and 17.
But those later days would not help teachers trying to cover material that will be on standardized, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests in May.
Snow days brought about a rare cancellation of first-semester final exams for middle and high school students in the county.
Caroline County students have missed 10 days of school and will make up five of those days. The other days were already built into the schedule.
Caroline High School Principal Jeff Wick said the weather can wreak havoc on the schedule.
“It can get a little bit hectic trying to catch up,” he said.
One example he cited is SOL testing that was supposed to be completed during the first semester of school. Things haven’t been so bad, though, that they can’t be adjusted.
“We’ve gone in stride and done what we needed,” he said.
Fredericksburg students missed 10 days and made up one on Feb. 17 and will make up one day on April 2, Superintendent David Melton said.
Missing school and having two-hour delays forces the school to readjust its schedule, said Hugh Mercer Elementary School Principal Marjorie Tankersley.
“They impact us enormously because every grade level has laid out every subject and how much time is allocated to that subject,” Tankersley said.
Missing the first two hours of each day takes a toll on elementary children especially, she said.
“We strategically plan reading instruction, the most important thing in elementary school, as the first thing,” Tankersley said.
Also, when there are two-hour delays, breakfast can’t be served because the students arrive too close to lunchtime.
“Many parents forget and send the kids, and it can be a long time from dinner last night to lunch the next day,” she said.
The kids aren’t the only ones impacted. Teachers have to shift their schedules around to find time for the most important lessons.
“It’s not been easy, but when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” Tankersley said. “And this winter, we’ve made a lot of lemonade.”
Robyn Sidersky: 540/374-5413