No one questions need for calamity days, but some see problems they create

Fairmont+High+School+students+walk+into+school+from+the+Performing+Arts+Center+parking+lot+on+a+blustery+February+morning.+Students+and+staff+have+been+bearing+the+bitter+cold%2C+snow+and+ice+during+this+difficult+winter.++

Photo: Lily Condron

Fairmont High School students walk into school from the Performing Arts Center parking lot on a blustery February morning. Students and staff have been bearing the bitter cold, snow and ice during this difficult winter.

By Sophie Lockhart, Features Editor

Seven. That’s the number of calamity days Kettering City Schools has used. Seven. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s two more than the five calamity days Ohio schools are usually allotted each year.

Considering the fact that, as of Feb. 7, Kettering students have only been in school for 20 of the scheduled 25 days since Christmas break, things have been pretty chaotic. Even worse, the majority the calamity days have taken place within the first few weeks of second semester.

In subzero temperatures with threatening windchills, no one wants to go outside. It’s not reassuring when a high of 4 degrees is considered a heat wave, right? That being said, it seems most students have thoroughly enjoyed the days out of school.

Junior Allie Schroeder feels the calamity days used were not only relaxing but necessary. While Schroeder normally drives to school, she is one of many who have experienced car trouble due to the extreme weather. “My car has been acting up,” Schroeder said. “In fact, not too long ago, my car engine died because of hypothermia. I’m without a car for awhile because of the cold temperatures.”

Snow days copy

Junior Collin Berry has also witnessed some automotive trouble, although it was not his own. “My friends’ cars have stalled and been frozen shut,” Berry said.

Berry is fortunate that he’s been getting rides from his friends more recently (when their cars are working properly), as he often walks to and/or from school. “When I do walk, it’s terrible,” said Berry. “I haven’t felt sick or gotten frostbite, but it’s sad. Sidewalks are rarely cleared on the side roads. It’s cold, and kids don’t tend to wear jackets. I think we really needed to have those snow days.”

Freshman Duncan Frazier agrees. “I take the bus to school,” he said. “I shiver uncontrollably for about a minute straight after I get on the bus every day. Every single one of the snow days was good to use.”

In fact, it seems most Fairmont students agree that the seven calamity days used so far were all justified. And most students say they’d rather go to school in the summer than deal with the cold in the winter, risking their safety.

Some students, however, have activities planned for the very beginning of summer vacation, and making up snow days could interfere with those plans. “Making up snow days may affect my select softball practices,” Schroeder said. “But it’s better than risking frostbite in the winter.”

While many select sports teams like Schroeder’s could easily be affected by this, there are also students who intend to travel abroad with Fairmont foreign language groups in late May, and having to make up days could put a strain on their exam schedule for second semester.

Junior Brian Lerch intends to travel to Germany with KFHS, and he explained how the extra days could be very inconvenient. “I’ll be going to Germany with 21 students the Sunday we get out of school,” Lerch said. “I’d rather not make up time in the summer, no matter what. But if we have to make up two snow days, then I’ll have to reschedule my exams. I’m sure my teachers would be understanding and work with me, but it’s still a hassle.”

Lerch also expressed concern about how missing school in the winter may affect students in Advanced Placement classes. “Snow days could affect people taking AP exams at the end of the year that could really use school days to learn the material,” Lerch said.

In fact, many AP teachers are struggling to rework their intense and jam-packed curriculum because of the lost days. AP English teacher Emily Bruzzese expressed her mixed feelings about the snow days.

“I don’t mind a few extra days at the end of the year, because we get out so early now it wouldn’t even seem like it would cut into summer. Plus I still get excited for snow days. It’s a fun cultural tradition,” Bruzzese said. “But I do start to get stressed about getting my curriculum covered before the AP test in May. Extra days at the end of the school year wouldn’t help me with that.”

Bruzzese also noted the difficulties of maintaining continuity in her classes. Fairmont has only had one five-day week since Christmas break, but the English teachers were out of the classroom for one day that week for Common Core training. “Just getting into the swing of school is difficult when we haven’t had a full week,” Bruzzese said. “It’s hard to keep a unit intact when we are on again/off again with classes.”

All in all, the winter of 2013-14 has been one of the harshest winters in Kettering’s history. While students and teachers aren’t necessarily complaining about not being at school, they realize that the result of so many calamity days can be, and in some ways already has been, detrimental.

“It’s really cold,” Frazier remarked. Welcome to Ohio.