Classes have different feel on Saturday

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 22, 2011

By Karissa Minn
Students in pajamas patterned with colorful stripes, fire trucks and Iron Man filled the halls at Woodleaf Elementary School on Saturday.
Brightly colored snow cones (in honor of snow days) were served to the children by volunteer parents and teachers, as well as bus drivers who didn’t bother leaving school during the short day.
School was in session for a make-up day Saturday after an icy winter storm two weeks ago canceled classes for five days.
Sue Herrington, principal of Woodleaf Elementary, said Pajama Day and Snow Cone Day were meant to help the students have fun.
“We still explained to the children that it is a learning day with learning games,” Herrington said. “It’s more review than new skills taught, because we couldn’t anticipate how many people would be absent.”
She said Woodleaf Elementary had 87.3 percent attendance for the day, which is lower than the average of 95 percent or higher.
But Herrington thinks the effort to get children excited about Saturday school brought more students in than there would have been otherwise.
“A fifth-grader (Friday) was complaining that he was feeling sick, so he called his mom,” she said. “His mom said, ‘If I come get you today, you don’t get to come back to school tomorrow.’ So he said he would stay.”
She said the teachers often incorporate games, small group centers, Promethean Boards and laptops into lessons, and they focused mainly on these hands-on activities Saturday.
In Michelle Whitson’s fifth-grade class, students solved math problems on white pieces of paper before crumpling them up to have a “snowball fight.”
Four-year-olds in Tammy Currie’s class learned about the alphabet while eating alphabet soup.
Students in Delaina Currie’s first-grade class rotated to several different activities focusing on spelling, reading, math and number patterns.
“They are all excited about pajama day, and they came in and got right to work,” Currie said.
She said several students were absent, but some of those were due to illness.
Fifth-grader Enrique Dominguez said he enjoyed the day’s different activities, like the game of Yahtzee he played in Laura Salow’s class.
“I’ve never been to school on a Saturday,” he said. “It’s weird, but it’s been a fun day.”
His classmate, Day Kelly, felt the same way.
“It’s kind of a weird experience coming to school in your pajamas,” he said. “I like playing the games.”
Salow said she also didn’t mind Saturday school after a whole week off, and she could use the day for planning and grading.
Tina Mashburn, director of middle schools with Rowan-Salisbury Schools, said attendance for students and teachers looked great Saturday in the middle schools, but she did not know the rate.
The attendance rate at Kannapolis City Schools was 86.2 percent Saturday, according to Ellen Boyd, the system’s director of community relations.
Boyd said absences were about twice what they normally would be.
“But it’s still pretty good,” Boyd said. “Everybody I’ve talked to is pretty pleased that we had that kind of attendance on a full day Saturday.”
In an e-mail to a Post reporter, Boyd said the system’s calendar states every year that, if held, Saturday school will be a full day.
“We’ve always thought it was important to give our students the full 180 days of instruction,” Boyd said. “We don’t want to have a token make-up day, but a regular school day.”
The half day wasn’t all fun and games at every school in the Rowan-Salisbury system.
Students at North Rowan High School focused on review for exams Saturday, according to Principal Darrel McDowell.
“It gives us the opportunity to review for kids that are struggling, and it also gives the opportunity for us to do team teaching in some areas,” McDowell said.
He added that if attendance is low in certain classes, they were combined and the teachers instructed together.
Overall, McDowell said, attendance was high for a Saturday.
“We feel like the kids have come in with a good attitude,” he said. “I think they honestly feel like because it’s a half day, they can come in, punch the clock, do the things they’re supposed to do and still have some time left for their weekend.”
Students at China Grove Middle School were given a non-uniform day Saturday, but Principal James Davis said it was otherwise “business as usual.”
He said students, parents and teachers have adapted well to Saturday school, and student attendance was around 90 percent.
“The parents have been appreciative of the fact that spring break has been protected as much as it can be,” Davis said. “The classroom instruction seems very strong and effective.”
There’s a chance local schools will need to schedule more make-up days after next week.
John Tomko, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said he expects a mix of rain and snow for this area beginning Tuesday afternoon, changing to snow Tuesday night.
Snow is predicted to continue into Wednesday and turn back to a mix Wednesday afternoon before stopping in the evening.
Tomko said the area along Interstate 85 is a “transition zone” between snow and rain, so Rowan County could see more or less of either one. At least, he said, this storm isn’t expected to bring much ice.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.