BENTON -- As students from the Kelly School District lay all warm and nestled in their beds, their school superintendent and other faculty were busy salting the school's parking lots at daylight Tuesday.
"It looked like an iced over skating rink," described Kelly Superintendent Don Moore. "The parking lot has to be in good shape for the students and visitors."
Although the salt application helped the situation considerably, Moore delayed school two hours Tuesday. By 10 a.m., it was mostly melted and students began piling safely into the school building. Scott County Central Schools were also delayed two hours Tuesday.
"This year is an unusual year for us," Moore said. This winter's abundant snowstorms have forced several area schools to close their doors for snow more than usual this year. Even Sikeston R-6 Schools took some snow days.
"This was the first year we've been out because of snow in years," recalled Sikeston R-6 Superintendent Steve Borgsmiller.
Deciding whether or not to call off school is not an easy job for school administrators, noted Charleston R-1 Schools Superintendent Joe Forrest. Many things are taken into consideration. Phone calls are made to police stations, highway patrol and even other school superintendents. Forrest got up around 3 a.m. Tuesday to check road conditions as did many other superintendents. They drive the roads of their bus routes and determine whether roads are safe for traveling.
Borgsmiller also said keeping in close contact with other schools like Kelly, Charleston, East Prairie, Scott Central and New Madrid County also help superintendents decide when to close school.
Of course, rural areas are going to be more dangerous to travel on because of gravel, hills and curves.
"Main roads usually aren't the problem," Scott County Central Superintendent Jo Anne Northern said. "It's the secondary roads that we've got to make sure are safe."
Borgsmiller said Sikeston is fortunate. Ninety percent of its students live within a couple miles from the school. So it can snow pretty bad and the district will still have good attendance, Borgsmiller explained. However, their No. 1 priority is student safety, he added.
Sikeston R-6, New Madrid County R-1 and Charleston R-1 have taken three snow days this year; Scott County Central has taken six; and Kelly took its eighth snow day Monday. Some schools north of Sikeston have missed at least 10 days of school.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requires 174 days of school each year. A statute called "inclement weather forgiveness" allows districts that have missed more than eight days to make up a half-day for each whole day missed, cutting the remaining number of makeup days in half.
With one snow day already built into the school year calendar, Kelly made a snow day up on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and planned to attend school on Presidents' Day, but the ice kept them out of the classrooms. Moore said the next make-up days are teachers' meetings March 21 and probably half a day March 7. The remaining four of their eight snow days will be made up May 19-22.
Both Northern and Moore admitted if Scott Central or Kelly miss anymore days, they will have to start subtracting from their spring breaks.
The first snow make-up day for Sikeston is April 21 and any additional days will be added onto end of the school year, Borgsmiller said.
None of these school district superintendents said they're worried about making up all of their snow days. However, the one thing that does worry them is the amount of classroom time students will get to prepare for the Missouri Assessment Program test in the spring.
"We're trying to get ready for the MAP testing, but it's hard when we have to miss school," Northern said. "I'm afraid we won't have enough time for preparation."
Moore agreed, saying several teachers have mentioned they're worried about getting behind on the MAP preparation.
"When you have snow days, it affects the regular continuity," Moore said. "And it's tougher for the teachers and the students. Hopefully the snow and ice is behind us."