Winter storm means less Spring Break for students, road crews do outstanding job

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After several brushes with the possibility of winter weather; Switzerland County and the entire area got hammered by a huge winter storm last week, shutting down schools and forcing numerous cancellations and reschedulings.

At the center of the storm were the crews of the Switzerland County Highway Department, who worked tirelessly day and night to get county roads cleared so that people could get out and get to work and also get supplies for the storm. The miles and miles of county roads were cleaned and cleared in a safe and effective manner, as Highway Superintendent Darrell Keith and his crews got people back on the roads as quickly as possible.

Workers in the towns of Vevay and Patriot also worked hard to keep streets clean; many times having to run over the same portions of street several times as the falling snow quickly recovered them.

Members of the Jefferson-Craig Volunteer Fire Department were also out in the weather, not only helping people get needed medications and other supplies, but they also gave rides to workers at the Swiss Villa Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, so that our elderly residents also continued to have outstanding care.

Other businesses and governmental offices were either closed due to the weather or worked on adapted schedules, but hit the hardest was the Switzerland County School Corporation.

Ironically, the students were already scheduled to be off of school last Monday, February 16th, because of Presidents Day and the fact that they had not yet missed multiple days because of weather.

Schools were closed the entire week, as everything from sporting events to drama club performances were postponed.

The girls basketball team made its way to Paoli, Indiana on Friday afternoon in preparation for their Regional game on Saturday morning against North Posey. The squad arrived in Paoli and was able to practice on the game floor; but then were sequestered into hotel rooms at nearby French Lick while the snow continued to fall.

The game was originally moved from Saturday morning to 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon; but as the winter storm continued, the decision was made to postpone the games until Monday, when the two semifinals were played; and the championship game was moved to Tuesday.

The high school was able to have the boys basketball game on Friday night, where the 1975 Switzerland County Pacer basketball team was honored on the 40th anniversary of its Sectional championship. It was the first Sectional title for a Switzerland County Pacer team (Vevay High and Patriot High had won titles prior to consolidation).

Many churches either canceled services on Sunday morning or moved and adapted them; as the snow began to ease up and frigid cold temperatures - falling below zero at times – began to hit the area; which caused melting snow to turn to ice and creating yet more problems for road crews.

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With state mandates on the number of days that students must be in school, the four days missed last week means that the first of two projected weeks of Spring Break is now basically gone.

“As of now, we will be using the first four days of Spring Break (March 16th-19th) to make up the days that we have missed,” Superintendent Mike Jones said. “We still have the 20th (Friday, March 20th) that if we don’t miss anymore snow days, will be off, and then the following week. Of course, if something happens and we get another snow day, then we’ll use the 20th to make that up.”

The superintendent also said that on the official school calendar, schools will be closed in observance of Good Friday, which falls on April 3rd. That is not targeted as a “possible make up day” on the school calendar, and he doesn’t see that being used if more than one snow day hits prior to Easter.

“I really don’t see the board having school on Good Friday,” Jones said. “I guess we could, but I’d say that if we miss more than one more day, then I think it will be tacked on to the end of the year. I think we still have a few days that we could use before graduation. I think, right now, it would be doubtful that we would use Good Friday.”

That means, as it stands now, Spring Break will begin for students and staff at the conclusion of the school day on Thursday, March 19th; with schools reopening on Monday, March 30th. Schools will then be closed on the Friday of that first week back because of Good Friday.

“Hopefully we won’t get anymore days, but we never know,” Jones said. “If we miss one more day, the default day is Friday the 20th.”

The sub-zero temperatures early this week caused the school corporation to go on a two-hour delay both Monday and Tuesday of this week, as the superintendent preferred to not have children on buses in temperatures that low and also be riding in the dark.

Also under consideration is the upcoming State ISTEP testing of students. Jones said that right now he doesn’t feel that the testing schedule has been impacted, but he noted that students have lost instructional time that would have helped them prepare for the tests, and he saluted his staff for the hard work that they have been doing and are doing to get the students ready for the exams.