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Students return; January's start far different than 2014, 2015

Prospect Elementary School students file off their bus Thursday morning.

      Mansfield City Schools buildings welcomed students back Thursday morning for the start of the year’s second semester. It was their first day in classrooms since the 15-day winter break began on Dec. 19.

      Superintendent Brian Garverick said reports throughout the district indicated a routine resumption of classes.

      At Prospect Elementary School teachers greeted five busloads of children and several others who walked to school or arrived in cars.

      Principal Jason Douglas said he was grateful for the shortened two-day week.

      “The students will have lots of stories to tell about what they did during the break. We will have instructional time today and Friday, of course, but by Monday the kids will be settled again into their regular routine,” he said.

      The Weather Channel’s forecast for Mansfield through Jan. 17 predicts temperatures above freezing every day, several days in the 40s. The only precipitation expected is rain and occasional “snow showers.” No mention of snow accumulation.

      January’s relatively mild weather forecast – at least through the first two weeks – is a sharp contrast to the severe weather in the same months in 2014 and 2015, which resulted in the decision to end the first semester in December before the start of winter break.

      In January 2014 all schools were closed for nine days due to inclement weather, including five in a row – Jan. 23, 24, 27, 28 and 29. 

      The closings forced then-food service manager Jane Fortman to scramble a carefully planned schedule of food deliveries, available freezer space and menus planned a month in advance.

      “These are the most calamity days I can remember in one month in my 23 years here,” Fortman said in a story posted on Tygerpride.com on Jan. 29, 2014. “I recall 10 calamity days one year but they weren’t in the same month.”

      School schedules were heavily impacted by snow, ice and subzero temperatures again in January and February 2015.

      Classes were canceled at all schools on Jan 6, 8, 9, 12, 21 and 26 and at all of the elementary buildings on Jan. 29.

      Schools were shut down again on Feb. 2, 12, 19, 20 and 23.

      In both 2014 and 2015 the weather disrupted end-of-semester testing. In March 2015 the board of education approved future calendars that moved the end of the first semester into December.

      In a letter to parents on April 1, 2015, Garverick explained that so many missed days would require students to remain in school until June 11.

      “As you are aware, snow, ice and subzero temperatures forced the closing of schools on several occasions, mostly in January and February,” he wrote. “While we are not required to make up each day of school missed to closings, it is in the best interest of our students to make up some of the precious instructional time lost this year and to equip your children to begin summer recess with as much instruction as we can reasonably provide without significant interference with your family’s summer plans.”

      In the letter, Garverick explained again the rationale used in deciding when to close schools.

      “Please know that the safety of children was the overriding factor in each decision I made to delay the start of school or close for the entire day,” he wrote. “There is no magic formula in that decision-making process. I made the decision by driving the streets of Mansfield and talking with Mansfield city safety officials about the progress of snow removal.”

      So far this school year, schools have been closed only twice because of weather – on Nov. 15 and 27. There were two-hour delays on Nov. 9 and 28.

      The last day for students will be May. 31.

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