Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Schools open despite weather

But Covington has high absenteeism

By Karen Gutierrez
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Only 57 percent of Covington schoolchildren showed up for class Monday, a day when most other Northern Kentucky districts were closed.

It was the worst attendance rate so far this school year, Covington Pupil Personnel Director Lester Gamble said. About 2,024 youngsters were absent, leaving some classrooms almost empty.

"I think it was a really bad call," said Sandy Arnold, whose daughter, a kindergartner at John G. Carlisle Elementary, insisted on going to school Monday.

The icy side roads turned her usual three-minute drive into a 25-minute ordeal, Arnold said.

Around Sixth and Russell streets, "there was a police officer who could barely get through the intersection because he was fishtailing - the wheels were spinning," she said.

Covington school officials could not say Tuesday afternoon whether school would be closed today, because such decisions are made at the last possible moment.

On Monday and Tuesday, district people were out on the roads as early as 4:30 a.m. checking conditions, and they reported that the roads were all right, Personnel Administrator Ken Ellis said.

Still, in such cases, parents have the last word on whether children should attend, he said.

"What I tell parents is, ... 'If you feel it's too dangerous for your child, then you keep your child home,' " Ellis said.

The Covington schools' usual attendance rate is about 93 percent. State funding is based on average daily attendance, with districts receiving about $18 a day for each child present.

The financial impact of Monday's absences may be mild, however. In reporting to the state, districts are permitted to toss out their five worst attendance days and use the previous year's average daily rate instead, Gamble said.


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