Worst winter in years impacting local schools

Published 11:21 am Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This winter has been one of the coldest and snowiest in recent years for the Tri-State.

According to the National Weather Service’s 30-year average, the Tri-State typically gets 23 inches of snowfall a year. However, less than two weeks into February, Mother Nature has already dumped 15 inches of snow on the area. That, Susan Buchanan of the NWS says, does not include 12 non-measurable days of accumulation.

“Non-measurable days mean that less than an inch of snow accumulated, so we don’t count it into our yearly totals,” Buchanan said. “January had 12.5 inches of measurable snowfall, and so far February has seen 2.5 inches.”

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The snow combined with subzero temperatures has had a huge impact on Lawrence County residents and businesses. Local schools may have been hit the hardest by the wintry conditions as schools have been closed or delayed on multiple occasions.

“Ironton has missed six days,” said Ironton Schools Superintendent Dean Nance. “This is the most that we have missed in recent years, but it is far less than other schools in the county have had to miss.”

Dawson-Bryant Schools superintendent George York says that while this is the most school missed in recent years, it isn’t unprecedented.

“In recent memory I do not recall a winter in which we missed as many days as this one,” York said. “Now, if you want to talk about the 1970s, a few of us remember one winter where we missed the whole month of January.”

Still, the missed days provide a challenge for administrators, students and teachers, especially with state testing occurring in the approaching spring.

“Losing days of instruction is never a positive thing,” York said. “Teachers are working diligently as well as the students in priority areas making use of every minute of instruction. With the state assessments in the spring, we simply want as much instructional time as possible.”

Ed White, an art instructor at Rock Hill High School, says that it is up to teachers to alter lesson plans to best prepare students for their educational futures. He also says that the inclement weather shouldn’t have an impact on seniors looking toward attending college.

“Some lesson plans may need to be altered in order to cover all the necessary subject matter,” White said. “The majority of teachers I know are a pretty dedicated bunch of people who will do whatever it takes to make up lessons. We try to have students prepared for college as early as possible to avoid any surprises such as bad weather.”

Nance echoed White’s sentiments about the effect on college-bound seniors, saying that preparation for college starts long before a student’s senior year.

“Most students seeking college admission have already filled out admission packets,” Nance said. “Most have taken the ACT multiple times. Many have already been accepted by their college of choice.”

It’s not unheard of for the Tri-State to see snowfall into late March and even early April and according to the NWS it could be likely in 2014.

“Right now it looks like that area is in the bull’s-eye for more accumulation,” Buchanan said. “We’re predicting below average temperatures, and above average precipitation for the rest of February into March and April. Below average temps, mixed with above average precipitation makes accumulation likely.”

Currently every school in Lawrence County has days that need made up, and with the NWS projecting more adverse weather in the coming weeks it could lead to extra calamity days being issued by the Ohio state government.

“The impact of more inclement weather would mean less days in the classroom,” York said. “We would have to find a way to make that time up, if the Ohio Legislature does not expand the calamity days past five, as we’ve already used up those five.”