Chilly temps delay school start; kids bundle up

Gary B. Gray • Feb 1, 2013 at 9:05 PM

Temperatures were in the low 20s Friday morning when students arrived at Johnson City Schools after a two-hour delay, which gave city crews enough time to make sure roads were safe for buses and vehicles to transport students.

It’s hard to say who was feeling the effects more, students, parents, teachers, administrators or crossing guards. OK, it’s not that hard; everyone was feeling winter’s bite.

How cold was it? It was so cold it made your face hurt.

Crossing guard Lou Campbell was setting out orange cones at an area in front of Fairmont Elementary where most students, or a student-parent combo, head up to the school’s main entrance.

“Some of them are pretty hard core, and they’ll walk to school in any weather,” said the 12-year foot-traffic veteran. “They’re usually slow walkers, but they will definitely pick up speed today.”

A wide array of scarfs, hats, gloves, boots — and the old ultra-puffy coats — were wrapped around students, parents and teachers as the wind made it feel even colder.

Noses were running. The young and old were jumping up and down to get the blood moving. They blew into their cupped hands. Car doors opened with a crackling sound, and ice and frost covered many a windshield. School Resource Officer Kenny Willis’ cheeks turned a very bright shade of red as he waved cars forward and intermittently held out a rigid arm to stop foot traffic.

“The staff — we have to get here as soon as we can, regardless of any delays,” Fairmont Principal Carol McGill said while greeting students in a heavy coat of her own. “But the lunch times stay the same. The sidewalks are clear and extra mats have been laid down. We also have an obligation to give the city the time it needs to get the roads prepared.”

An unusually cold arctic air mass moved into the area overnight, and temperatures are expected to top out in the 20s over the next few days. That’s about 20 degrees below normal.

School administrators implemented the two-hour delay to give spots of black ice and other potential road hazards some extra time to be checked and cleared, meaning the start time was pushed back from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Still, some parents arrived at Fairmont thinking teachers would be there at 7:45 a.m. to greet students who normally start class at 8 a.m. Instead, last call rang out at 10:15 a.m. Friday.

“When the students have a two-hour delay, so do the teachers,” McGill said. “That’s the part they don’t understand. Everything is just two hours later. We lose some instructional time, but everyone will do their best to make that up.”

McGill said they normally head to the cafeteria if they arrive a bit early, and that’s where many went Friday. But they did not get a bite of breakfast while there on this day.

“The students are pretty resilient,” she said.

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