Last week’s winter storm brought more ice and snow than some areas of the country had seen in a century, plunging millions of Texans into darkness and closing schools for millions of students.

Students in Tullahoma City Schools ended up with a full week off from school, with the Presidents Day holiday on Monday and the administration’s decision to cancel school the next four consecutive days due to the hazardous road conditions and below-freezing temperatures.

With the full week off, the school system has exhausted all of its built-in days off, according to Director of Schools Dr. Catherine Stephens.

The area-wide accumulations of ice and snow caused side and back roads all around Tullahoma to become treacherous. Black ice patches all around town were reported by emergency officials, who routinely encouraged Tullahomans to stay off the roads if at all possible to both keep them safe and to ensure emergency crews had safer travel routes in case people required assistance.

According to Stephens, the system has a total of 13 days set aside in its calendar for certain purposes like snow days and professional development for faculty. Nine of those days are exclusively set aside for the professional development, such as the days just before the spring semester when teachers return to their buildings prior to the students’ return. That leaves just four days left to use for necessary school closures like happened last week.

Historically, TCS has not used the majority of its built-in days off, leaving many Tullahoma students sour about attending school when all other area schools have days off due to weather or widespread illnesses. In the last several years, widespread illnesses, mainly colds and the flu, have kept schools closed for a day or two while custodial staff deep-cleaned facilities and students and teachers recuperated at home.

According to Stephens, the district still has options available to it should more closures be deemed necessary in the future. The next step, should it need be taken, would be to eliminate the 1 p.m. dismissals for the elementary schools, which take place each Wednesday.

However, Stephens told The News, she has reached out to the state commissioner of education to request a waiver of the days used last week.

In the email, Stephens said, she detailed how Tullahoma City Schools traditionally uses its 13-day-stockpile and the circumstances surrounding the rapid use of its remaining days. Should the waiver be granted by Commissioner Penny Schwinn, the system could have the four days back to use in the future.

Whether or not that waiver will be granted is up to the commissioner.

Staff Writer

Erin McCullough has won awards for her news reporting, community lifestyles and education reporting in the three years she's been a journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and currently lives in Tullahoma with her cat, Luna.

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