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Attendance lags on first day of snow clubs at schools

Thursday, January 12, 2012 | 5:31 p.m. CST; updated 7:03 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 12, 2012
Lauren Elizabeth Bailey, 8, draws an elephant during the first Snow Day Club on Thursday morning at Derby Ridge Elementary School. The elementary Snow Day Club is organized by the Columbia Public School District to provide day care when school is canceled due to extreme weather conditions.

COLUMBIA — Instead of sitting at their homes on Thursday's snow day, Archer Fried-Socarides and Alex Kraus were busy making boats out of aluminum foil at West Boulevard Elementary School.

Archer, 6, a student at Grant Elementary School, and Alex, 7, a student at West Boulevard Elementary School, were trying to see who could get the most marbles in their boat before it sank in a container of water.

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"I just like making boats," Archer said. His personal best for the activity was 44 marbles.

Columbia Public Schools had its first-ever Elementary Snow Day Club on Thursday, designed to provide a place for parents to take their children when school is canceled because of snow. 

Total attendance on Thursday was only about 34 percent of the 180 students who signed up in advance to attend snow clubs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Mill Creek, West Boulevard and Derby Ridge elementary schools.

The three schools were selected to provide locations in the northern, central and southern parts of Columbia.

On Thursday, Derby Ridge had 18 students, Mill Creek had 21 students and West Boulevard had 23 students attend snow club activities.

Peter Stiepleman, assistant superintendent of elementary education for Columbia Public Schools, said several parents who had signed up for snow club called to say they were keeping their children at home because they were able to stay with them.

There will be a debriefing session to evaluate the success of Thursday's snow club, attendance and the wait list process, Stiepleman said.

Michelle Baumstark, the district's community relations coordinator, said snow club enrollment is closed for this winter, due to the waiting list. Snow club costs $15 per day per child. Parents complete an application, submit a $15 deposit and provide lunch. 

Even the snow clubs depend on road conditions. The clubs will not be open if weather is too dangerous and employees cannot drive to schools safely, Baumstark said.

Each school is set up to have two classrooms each for groups of students in kindergarten through second grade and students in grades three through five.

Students enrolled in snow club have language arts, science, mathematics and physical education classes. They also make crafts and play games, such as straw towers and barge building. 

Vanessa Hickem, an instructional aide at Oakland Junior High School, was one of the aides at Derby Ridge. Students in her group competed in a challenge to see who could build the tallest tower using 50 straws, a cup, a ball and a length of tape.

Hickem said she thought students were enjoying themselves. 

Jeri Petre, principal at Derby Ridge Elementary School, said she received lots of thank-yous when parents dropped their children off earlier in the morning.

"It helps out the community," Petre said, adding that the district realizes how snow days can put parents "in a rough spot."

Hickem said that even though attendance was lower than expected Thursday, she thinks more students will attend future snow clubs.

"It's gonna be a hit for the parents who have to work," Hickem said.


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