by Allison Haver
Watauga County Schools canceled classes for today and had canceled classes on Thursday, after initially issuing a three-hour delay. Schools were canceled due to inclement weather that caused black ice to accumulate on some roads in the county.
Students missed school on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Tuesday through today due to inclement weather.
"We have missed eight days so far, but we made up one on a Saturday so the net count of missed days is currently seven," Watauga County Schools' public information director Marshall Ashcraft said in an email Thursday.
Today marks the ninth day of school students have missed.
According to the WCS's website, the number of missed school days in January of this year has already doubled the number for last January, during which students missed four.
Originally, administrators had planned to use this Saturday as a makeup day for students, however because classes were canceled today a different day must be used.
"If we do not make up a day Saturday, we will most likely extend the school year to June 11," Ashcraft said.
According to Ashcraft, administrators will do their best to avoid extending the school year further into the summer, although this year that may be problematic.
"The later starting date required by the state school calendar law makes this challenging for our schools and for other N.C. mountain counties. That change, which took effect for the current school year, did not allow us to start the school year until Aug. 19," Marshall said.
Besides the icy road conditions, several school buses would not start Thursday morning, according to the Watauga County Schools Director of Transportation Jeff Lyons.
"That's just the nature of diesel engines in cold weather," Lyons said. "Because of a state contract, there's no engine block heaters on the buses."
Lyons said that a main concern with several buses not starting was not having enough time to work on them and get students to school in a timely fashion.
Also, making students wait longer at bus stops in freezing temperatures was a major apprehension for Lyons and his staff.
Lyons, however, agreed with Ashcraft that black ice was the main reason the school day was canceled.
"What most people don't know is that the DOT (Department of Transportation) is doing a great job, but the salt they put out is not as effective in temperatures below 21 degrees, unless it's hit by direct sunlight," Lyons said.
"We are thinking about the safety of the children," Lyons said. "Making sure the students, teachers and staff are safe is our No.1 priority."