Saturday, January 25th, 2014
Frigid temperatures, snowfall increasing schools' budgets
By Doug Drexler
Workers clear snow near a crosswalk between Celina Primary School and the high s. . .
Bitter cold temperatures and repeated snowfalls are wreaking havoc on school districts' budgets and schedules.
Local superintendents are watching the budget as heating and operational costs increase with the extended cold temperatures.
The winter weather has already cost the Parkway district about $10,000, according to superintendent Greg Puthoff. Expenditures include $1,000 for additional insulation and $200 for new water pipe connectors after the district had problems with frozen pipes a few weeks ago. And overtime pay has risen as custodians repeatedly clean parking lots, roads and sidewalks around the school.
Other costs include $1,000 for repairs to a damaged snowplow, replacement of a worn out snowblower and $1,000 to hook up control items to the backup generator, Puthoff said. The heating bill, which he anticipates will be much greater than normal, hasn't yet arrived.
Some of the weather-related headaches are not related to funding, - the high school's third quarter was delayed to allow time for mid-year exams, and makeup days have been scheduled for Feb. 17, April 17 and April 21.
Celina schools has surpassed allowable calamity days by one, so far, and it will be made up April 17, according to Superintendent Jesse Steiner. If another day is needed students will attend classes on April 21. The remaining makeup days will be tacked on to the end of the school year, he said.
His district also extended the academic calendar and rescheduled games due to snow days. Overtime caused by the cold and snow are hitting the district's budget, he said.
"Our maintenance staff and custodial staff have done an outstanding job of keeping up with the snow and ice. They made sure that the buildings have had heat and kept everything running. I think the biggest expense will be heating cost," he said.
"Winter isn't even close to being over. The weather patterns for the next seven days look very similar to what we have now," Steiner said Thursday.
St. Marys has seen an increase in overtime as maintenance workers struggle to keep up with snow removal, superintendent Shawn Brown said.
"We have also used 18 tons of salt for our walks and parking lots already this year," Brown said. "This compares to 20 tons used all of last year. Sadly, we are just in the middle of this winter season - not the end. So I anticipate we will well exceed the 20 tons used last season. I am pretty doggone certain the utility bills will be greater this year than the past couple of winters which were relatively mild."
The district had to buy $1,000 worth of fuel additive to have on hand for the bus fleet and replace two block heaters at $200, plus mechanic's time, Brown said. Those maintenance items may have been needed anyway, but were likely moved up due to the cold weather.
The middle school extended the second quarter to account for missed days, and the district is starting to add days to the end of the school year, starting May 27.
Coldwater Superintendent Rich Seas said recent two-hour delays have forced the district to juggle the school day schedule. Earlier, the district adjusted the end of the second quarter to allow time to prepare for end-of-term tests. Coldwater has already scheduled a makeup day for Feb. 14 with plans to make up classes on April 17 and 21, if necessary. After that, the school year would have to be extended into the summer, Seas said. A few delays also quickly add up to equal a missed day, he said.
"That's a couple of days right there," he said. Students are often distracted when they show up after the delays, talking about the snow and cold - and about which neighboring districts got the day off while they have to attend," he said.
The extreme cold also stresses the heating system and not all rooms are as warm as others.
"It's not as productive as you'd like," he said regarding the temperature in all of the classrooms. St. Henry has already made up one day and has another makeup day set for Feb. 14, superintendent Rod Moorman said.
"We still have a long winter ahead of us," he said.
"If all of our makeup days are used for calamity, we will usually get some kind of reprieve from the state for some of those days. But if that doesn't happen, then we will have to come back to school after the Memorial holiday and make up those lost days. We will still graduate our seniors on the Sunday before the Memorial holiday," he said.