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Storm keeps hundreds from schools

JULIE SUTORsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Student teacher Trindl Nebeker helps Jordan Bund use a compass Monday at Dillon Valley Elementary. Nebeker was filling in for third-grade teacher Julie Madron one of a plethora of teachers stranded in their spring break destinations by Sundays snowstorm.
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SUMMIT COUNTY – Spring break may have been over according to the Summit School District calendar, but hundreds of teachers, support staff and students were still in Florida, Mexico and California.The travelers sat marooned in sunny airports around the U.S. and beyond Sunday as wind and heavy, wet snow pummeled Denver and much of the rest of the Front Range, canceling flights and closing many stretches of highway.”People are stranded all over the place,” said district superintendent Millie Hamner from her cell phone, as she hastily made the rounds to short-staffed schools Monday morning. “We’re trying to get a sense of the scope, but kids are in classrooms, and they’re learning. It’s just a little challenging here.”

Thirty-five teachers – about 15 percent of the total teaching force – were absent Monday, causing Hamner and her staff to scramble for substitutes Sunday night. On Monday morning, the district was still short nine subs.”Some positions weren’t classroom teachers though, so we were only short two in the classrooms. But we were able to creatively move people around to cover those positions. We had people covering for each other, people pulling together as a team and pitching in,” Hamner said.Two fourth-grade classes in Summit Cove Elementary merged, and Dillon Valley principal Gayle Jones-Westerberg reshuffled her staff to match up instructors with children. Several stranded teachers wrote lessons plans remotely and e-mailed them in to the school district.Hamner said it’s not uncommon for families to extend their vacations beyond the official end of spring break, but Monday’s student absences were extremely high.

Of the roughly 3,000 Summit students, 483 weren’t in their seats Monday. Summit Middle School alone had 112 students missing.Hamner considered canceling school, but decided against it since the weather in Summit County wasn’t as treacherous as that in the Front Range. Also, the entire fleet of school buses, bus drivers and school principals were in town and ready to get to work. Hamner said she still expects absences to be higher than normal today.

Denver International Airport faced another day of canceled flights Monday.”Hopefully, by Wednesday, we’ll have everybody back,” she said.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 203 or jsutor@summitdaily.com.


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