Area schools, businesses affected by extreme cold, snow accumulations

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Jerry's Market often experiences a rush of shoppers when severe weather is forecast, according to owner Scott Snyder. Photo by Jim Lincoln.

Planning is necessary for schools and stores to function smoothly. This winter has made following a regular schedule challenging for local schools and stores.

Food sales go up at Thanksgiving and Christmas for Busch’s Fresh Food Market and then start to go down after the holidays. This year sales in January beat out Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The increase is great for the store’s bottom line, but makes ordering a challenge for Center Store Manager Angie VanEtten, of Busch’s. “I had to increase a lot of ordering on the trucks. We had to get a special milk truck brought in on Saturday,” she said. “Grocery really got hit. We pretty much got slammed for everything. Basically, I think everybody came down in case they got stuck.”

When the weather started getting bad, the number of people shopping in Busch’s increased beyond the store’s regulars. VanEtten believes the increase was partially because people who normally shop in Adrian didn’t want to make the trip in bad weather.

“We’re hoping we get to keep those people,” said VanEtten.

In a few areas, the store had surplus goods because a new person over-ordered. “It actually turned out to be a good thing,” VanEtten said. “There would have been holes everywhere.”

Sometimes empty spots on the shelves are because suppliers can’t get their goods to the stores. According to VanEtten, a scheduled delivery of pop couldn’t be made this week because of the cold temperatures. The delivery trucks don’t have heated storages areas, and without heat, the bottles would freeze and explode during the driver’s delivery route.

Empty shelves also happen when the store runs out of a particular item, because then people purchase similar items. For example, people first bought all the large eggs from Busch’s but then moved on to other sizes, and eventually even the most expensive organic eggs sold.

“We sold all the eggs,” said VanEtten. “People buy whatever is available.”
People were not just buying food, either. “We went through a lot of sidewalk salt,” VanEtten said. “I don’t know if that’s even helping people on their driveways.”

There was another big surprise seller for Busch’s. “Beer and alcohol sales really increased,” said VanEtten with a smile.

School districts plan their school calendars well in advance of each school year. Snow days, considered calamity days, take that schedule and just turn things upside down.

The state requires school districts to have a certain number of hours and days devoted to student instruction. Those numbers vary slightly among districts, and average a minimum number of 175 to 180 days and 1,098 hours.

Britton Deerfield Superintendent Charles Pelham is in a unique position compared to surrounding districts because the Britton Deerfield district has only been in existence since the 2011-2012 school year. His minimum day threshold was set for 170 days, and although it will eventually increase, that number is what he has worked with the past two school years.

To provide students in the Britton Deerfield School District with enough instruction time, Pelham scheduled more days than the minimum threshold and set 1,150 hours of instruction. “I scheduled way over,” Pelham said. “I scheduled 180 days of schools.”

Many people in the district have been concerned about the number of school days used by the district as snow days so far this year. Pelham is not worried, because he has more days to work with than many superintendents.

“In Britton Deerfield’s case, we had 16 days above the minimum,” said Pelham. “We still have five days left.”

Pelham has heard some districts plan to make up time by adding minutes onto school days. He said this is a misunderstanding of state requirements.

“The state hasn’t approved adding minutes to a day,” Pelham said, and added more change is on the way. “Next year schools cannot use teacher development days to make up for missed days.

He thinks his district is in good shape with the five days it has left to use as snow days. If he has to make up time, Pelham would prefer to just add days on the end of the school year.

Pelham is not bothered by the interference of weather in the school calendar. He bases closing the district on what is best for students and lets families know as soon as possible so they can make arrangements. “Once we knew we were going to close, we closed early,” said Pelham.

Canceling athletics can be a little more challenging for districts, but Pelham did not hesitate. “If it’s not safe to have school, how can we have athletics?” he said.

Even though the school was closed to students, Pelham had to coordinate taking care of the building to prevent problems. “We did a lot of preventative things,” he said. “We opened registers. We turned up the heat to keep the water circulating.”

In addition to making sure the school stayed nice and warm to avoid freezing pipes, Pelham also had to monitor school buses. “Those diesel motors turn to gel when it gets really cold,” Pelham said.

Food orders had to be canceled, and then called in when school was set to open back up this week. For students it was a week at home enjoying time off, but for Pelham and his staff the week was spent dealing with operations issues. Because of the hard work, the district was ready to welcome students back when the snow stopped flying.




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