Archive for Thursday, December 7, 2006

Snow forces schools to deal with unplanned recess

December 7, 2006

When snow and ice brought two school-free days to De Soto last week, students flocked to the De Soto Community Center.

De Soto High School students Tommy Elmer, Devin Higginbotham and Tyler Phongsavath played soccer Thursday afternoon in the gymnasium.

"Most of us are here every day after school anyway," Tommy said. "We'll probably stay until it closes."

Students in rural areas like Eudora and De Soto communities have to be creative in finding things to do, while their parents have to be creative in making sure someone watches their children.

De Soto Parks and Recreation director Jay Garvin said the center didn't have any special activities in case of snow days, but that the gym was open to the public.

Eudora students don't yet have the luxury of an indoor community center for snow days.

Barbara Kruger, an in-home childcare provider who is able to stay home with her children on snow days, said many Eudora students went to parks.

"There are some really good sledding areas around town," she said. "We used to live over on the west side where there's a wonderful sledding hill."

Kruger said she didn't mind letting her daughters go to Bluejacket Park alone, since many families gathered there to watch over children.

"A lot will go out sledding on Church Street on the overpass," she said. "Personally I think that's dangerous."

Eudora's new Parks and Recreation director Tammy Hodges said providing activities for snow days would be one of the functions of the new community center.

"Next year, we'll get 'No School' play days and snow days," she said.

"Any time the school is out, we'll offer a play day."

Programs would include after-school activities for latchkey kids, as well as summer day camps.

"Right now we hardly have any facilities to do anything like that for those kids that don't have anywhere to go," Hodges said. "The parents have to take off work if they don't have anyone to take care of them."

De Soto Multi-Service Center director Jodi Hitchcock said school cancellations during snow days presented a problem to some families when the parents still had to work.

School officials in Eudora and De Soto take seriously the decision to cancel classes when inclement weather strikes.

Eudora district communications coordinator Kristin Magette said district officials try to contact parents early so plans can be made.

A new Listserv computer program informs parents via e-mail when administrators decide to cancel school activities or classes.

"My first priority when I hear that the school is closed is to get a message on that Listserv," she said.

Magette said officials make the decision to close schools because of concern for students and staff.

"If we can't run our transportation system, that's our No. 1 challenge when we look at whether or not to close school.

"We don't want to put bus drivers on the road if there's a chance (students) could get hurt."

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