Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Free day for 7,000 Warren students


Double whammy from wreck, storm

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON TWP. - Monday was sort of a "snow day" in September for more than 7,000 Warren County students.

A truck wreck cut power to Little Miami schools early Monday and classes in the neighboring Kings schools district were shut down because of weekend storm damage.

Kings will remain closed today as work continues on repairing the district's damaged buses, which had 250 windows broken. State inspectors will be checking the 52 buses today to be sure they meet safety standards. Only Kings maintenance staff workers are required to report to work, said district spokeswoman Beth Wagner.

A dump truck struck a power pole near the 600 block of U.S. 22/Ohio 3 and Cochran Road at approximately 6 a.m. Monday, cutting electrical power for Morrow and five of six Little Miami schools and forcing school officials to hastily announce school closures. Hamilton Township police said there were no injuries.

So Little Miami's 3,200 students joined about 3,800 Kings students in an unscheduled day off Monday.

"I was at my bus stop when a neighbor told me there was no school," said Stephen Necamp, a Little Miami High School sophomore who immediately knew what to do.

"I was so happy I went back home and fell asleep," Stephen joked as he waited with Little Miami classmates in the lobby of a movie theatre near Paramount's Kings Island.

Saskia Sutmoller, a Little Miami junior, drove to school as she usually does only to find that classes were canceled. She, too, headed to the afternoon movies, after a leisurely breakfast out and then some TV at home.

"Other than I didn't get to sleep in, this was fun," Sutmoller said.

Power was restored in Morrow and the Little Miami school system later that morning, but by that time it was too late to conduct a school day, said Bobbi Grice, the president of the district's school board. Classes at Little Miami will resume today.

"We don't want to close schools unless necessary, but under the circumstances, it was the right call," Grice said.

Some parents who work outside the home were "put in a disadvantage, and we realize that - but so do snow days."

Both districts intend to make up the lost days later in the school year.

The day off worked out for Kings parent Mary Jane Donnellan, who happened to be off anyway, so she accompanied her daughter Maggie and a classmate to the movies.

"If I hadn't been off work today, I would have had to leave my job - but it worked out fine," said Donnellan.

Daughter Maggie, a sixth-grader at Kings Columbia Elementary, was tickled about the unexpected break.

"I was really glad we didn't have school."

Mark Bailey, head groundskeeper for Kings schools, was relieved Monday that though Saturday's high winds had damaged dozens of buses and Kings Junior High School, it had largely spared Galbreath Field. That's where the Kings Knights football team and boys and girls soccer squads have been forced to play since lead contamination was recently discovered in the school stadium and school grounds.

If Galbreath Field, which is less than a quarter-mile from the junior high, had been damaged it would have been the second time in about a month that the Knights football team, which is 5-1 and among the top-rated teams in Greater Cincinnati, would have lost its home field.

"I let out a sigh of relief when I saw the field and stands were OK," Bailey said of the 4,000-seat stadium that is serving as the Kings' temporary home this season.

Warren County storm damage

Damage from the straight-line wind storm that sent trees crashing and siding ripping from 30 homes in the Kings Mills area, and 50 homes in South Lebanon, was estimated Monday at $4 million, according to Frank Young, the county's emergency services director. He said that figure could rise, but he didn't expect it would be much.

County officials were concentrating their efforts on getting Kings schools up and running. State building inspectors were called in to look at damage to the building, including bowed walls.

Mason brought in street sweepers to clean glass from the bus lots, and glaziers were expected to work through the night into this morning with portable lights to replace windows in more than 50 buses, Young said.

"They have 12 they can use, and the (school) transportation director said they are looking at needing 25 minimum for a run," he said.

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Aaron Johnson contributed to this story. E-mail mclark@enquirer.com




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