Schools consider options after closings

School buses are parked at the Warren County Public School's Transportation Department on Criser Road in Front Royal on Thursday. Public schools in Warren and Frederick counties are closed today due to last weekend's blizzard. Shenandoah County schools were already scheduled to be closed today. Rich Cooley/Daily

Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren county schools were among many districts that remained closed throughout the week during the aftermath and cleanup of winter storm Jonas.

Thursday and Friday were already scheduled as teacher work days at Shenandoah, and the schools’ first semester will now end on Feb. 3 instead of Jan. 27 as a result of the weather closings.

Frederick schools announced on Facebook that Feb. 3 would become a regular school day instead of an early dismissal day to make up for class time. The district built five weather make-up dates into this year’s calendar.

While Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher said that school facilities and roads were largely clear, the main problem lay in the safety conditions at more than 400 bus stops.

“The last two days [of closings] have been primarily because of walking areas that our students need…the ones that walk to school and then the bus pick up areas,” he said. “We just have so many areas that still just have mounds of snow.”

Warren schools had announced the creation of weather bus routes earlier in January that were meant to provide alternatives during snowy conditions. In the case of last; weekend’s blizzard, Drescher said that even though most routes ended up clear, students would still be at risk walking through deep drifts of snow or standing in the streets. He said it was encouraging to see that some residents had cleared stretches of sidewalk or the ends of their driveways, providing students with a safe place to wait.

Classes will be in session on the three allotted weather makeup days in March that would otherwise contribute to spring break days. Drescher said the district has a few options for making up time beyond those days and acknowledged the possibility of more winter weather closings in February.

“Let’s get through those and see what the total picture is…before we make any changes to the calendar,” he said yesterday.

There are three professional development days on this year’s calendar before Warren’s scheduled last day of school on June 2, one of them on Feb. 15. Drescher said those days could turn into full school days before the schools consider extra time tacked onto the end of the year.

“There’s always the possibility of extending the school year…we don’t want to do that unless we’re getting to the point where we would have to,” he said.

The adopted 2016-2017 calendar for Warren County schools includes seven weather make-up dates – three paired with spring break in April and four paired with the end of the year in June.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com