Area schools finally back in session

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Ponder, Pilot Point limit bus service

All Denton-area schools were finally back in session Thursday after an ice storm canceled classes for several days, but not everyone had bus service.

Students in the Ponder and Pilot Point districts returned to classes at 10 a.m. Thursday with the districts providing limited bus service. Ponder limited service for its morning transport, and Pilot Point did not run any school buses on Thursday.

Both districts planned to resume school at normal times today with full bus service provided.

“We did not go down any rural roads that were ice-packed, and there were several,” Ponder Superintendent Bruce Yeager said Thursday. “Just from being out myself, we had a significant amount of the ice still on the roadways.

“We feel like getting up in the 40s [Thursday] is going to help us significantly.”

Figures were not immediately available on how many students were impacted by the limited bus service, on school attendance and whether absences would be excused for those unable to make it to school. On an average day, 700 students ride the bus to Ponder schools.

Pilot Point Superintendent Byron Terrier was in meetings most of the day Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

Temperatures are expected to remain above freezing for the next several days, with Denton expected to reach a high of about 46 degrees today, according to the National Weather Service website. A 60 percent chance of showers could bring moisture back to the roadways today but no freezing is expected.

Students also returned to school Thursday in the Denton, Aubrey, Krum and Sanger school districts and at the Texas Education Centers in Denton and Aubrey.

Officials with the Denton and Krum school districts, which did provide bus service Thursday, said drivers used caution and it took some routes longer than normal to transport students.

“We had every student delivered by 8:53 this morning,” said Sharon Cox, a spokeswoman for the Denton school district. “The last bus got to Ryan High School at 8:53 a.m. We had close to between probably 8,000-9,000 students on buses and delivered to school on time or within a couple minutes of the first bell.”

Denton Superintendent Jamie Wilson wrote in an e-mail that the district’s high schools have modified their upcoming final exam schedules, which begin next week. To view the modified schedule, visit http://bit.ly/1folpKl.

Denton school officials say attendance Thursday was a little more than 96 percent. Weekly attendance averages for the district throughout the year run between 96 percent to 98 percent, according to district officials.

Several school districts in the area resumed classes on Wednesday, including the Lake Dallas school district, Immaculate Conception Catholic School, Winfree Academy Charter School and the Texas Education Center campuses except for those in Denton and Aubrey. Students in Little Elm and Lewisville school districts returned to school Tuesday.

Officials with schools that resumed classes Wednesday said attendance was good, and in some cases, better than expected.

“The students seemed eager to get back to school, and several parents seemed grateful for the children to be back to their routine,” Elaine Schad, principal at Immaculate Conception Catholic School, wrote in an e-mail.

Michelle Simms, marketing and communications director for Liberty Christian School in Argyle, wrote in an e-mail that school officials expected attendance would be low Wednesday “but were surprised by a relatively normal, even high, attendance day.”

“The exception was preschool where we had nine absent. I imagine those parents were a bit more cautious, and understandably so,” Simms wrote.

 

Scheduling finals, making up days

Stacey Baxter, principal at Denton Calvary School, said the closures will have minimal impact on the remainder of the year as students have continued school work at home while out of school. The school opened from noon to 3 p.m. Wednesday for final exams, and finals will continue through today.

The closures could have an impact on middle and upper school finals at Liberty Christian, Simms said.

Cody Carroll, superintendent for the Krum school district, wrote in an e-mail that dual credit students will make up final exams and preparation for semester exams is being modified. District officials said there was no drop in attendance today in Krum.

Administrators with the Argyle, Denton, Krum, Lake Dallas, Pilot Point, Ponder and Sanger school districts said they will discuss with their respective school boards whether to request waivers from the Texas Education Agency for any inclement weather days over the two they took.

Schad said Immaculate Conception will assess additional make-up days after the first of the year.

Officials with the Selwyn College Preparatory School said a decision will be made next February or March whether to use three designated “bad weather days” next spring built into the 2013-14 school calendar.

Private schools are not required by the state to make up school days as a result of weather, as are public schools. Officials with the TEA said public school districts and charter schools first must use designated weather days before requesting a waiver to avoid making up additional days because of inclement weather.

 

Glad to be back

In Sanger, school got off to an excellent start Thursday, said Superintendent Kent Crutsinger.

District staff drove the roads at 4 a.m. Thursday to prepare for the first school day back, he said, and maintenance workers and administrators were out at the schools when they opened to ensure everyone entered safely. According to district officials, the district’s average attendance for the year is 97.03 percent and 96.08 percent of students were in school Thursday.

“We are very pleased with the way school got started and no one was injured,” Crutsinger said. “It’s been a unique weather event, and we’re glad it’s coming to a close.”

BRITNEY TABOR can reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.


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