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Storms shake up students' schedules

Published Aug. 28, 2005

As school officials fret about getting back on track for the FCAT after missing four class days to bad weather, some parents, teachers and students are more concerned about catching up on things closer to their hearts _ sports and other extracurricular activities.

At Largo High School, football and volleyball games had to be rescheduled, causing a ripple effect that will affect hundreds of students in one way or another, said Eric Allen, assistant principal.

At least a couple of volleyball matches are being moved to Friday nights, meaning students will have to choose between volleyball and the traditional Friday night football games. And the football schedule was changed so that the team would play three games in a 10-day span, rather than the normal one game every seven days.

"The kids are affected because they plan their schedules around their practice and game schedules," Allen said. "Our kids involved in activities are usually involved in other things _ they have jobs, they're involved in church, they're into other community activities. Now you have to pick and choose what you plan on doing."

It's especially difficult to reschedule volleyball matches because of a chronic lack of officials, he added.

Students at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School are scrambling to make production deadlines for Our Town. Scheduled to open Sept. 28, the show features a set that has to be built from scratch and a cast of more than 30 actors, who all require costumes.

"We've lost the equivalent of almost a full week of school," said costume design instructor Trish Kelley. "The kids are putting in a lot of afterschool hours."

Students at Lakewood High School who are involved in the Center for Advanced Technologies' Communications and Original Multimedia studios have had to postpone the season opener of their weekly TV show, Fox Thirteen Magazine. The students completed production on the first installment of the award-winning news magazine weeks ago but need to stay ahead of their broadcast schedule, said CATCOM director Mark Granning. Postponing the premiere will give them a chance to catch up.

"We have really strict deadlines for the show," he said. "The kids have to make phone calls, set up interviews, shoot and do postproduction. If you're not in school, you can't use the equipment."

Missed school days also have taken a toll on driver education programs. Jim Mewha, a driver education instructor at St. Petersburg High, said some of his students may not get to drive as many times as they were scheduled.

"We'll just keep trying to squeeze in as many driving lessons in as we can," he said.

Worries about making up lost time are not limited to teachers.

Kassandra Saul, a sophomore at St. Petersburg Collegiate High School, is concerned that the days she has missed could compromise her ability to succeed at the new charter school, where students take college-level classes on SPC's Gibbs campus.

The 15-year-old has been working hard to keep up with a more rigorous academic schedule than what she was used to in a traditional high school. Complicating matters was a miscommunication Monday that left her unsure whether she should come to school or not. Pinellas County schools were closed, but St. Petersburg College was open.

"I like going to school now," she said. "I don't want to be sitting at home."

Sarah Richardson, a sophomore in the International Baccalaureate program at St. Petersburg High School, also worried about how another missed school day would affect her life.

"Our teachers are trying to gather everything together so we can get back on track, but every time we think we're back on track, we miss another day," she said. "Everything is kind of unsteady."

The unexpected days off have begun to affect younger children, some parents say. Ann White, a Parent-Teacher Association member with a first-grader and a fourth-grader at Douglas L. Jamerson Jr. Elementary, wonders how the nearly weekly interruptions will affect kids who are still getting used to school.

"Kindergarteners and first-graders are babies who are slowly being integrated into the main school," she said. "When you have a separation with your teacher while she's building those bridges, it takes you back a step or two."

White also is concerned about the weather's effects on out-of-school activities. Storm worries have prevented her from signing up her 7-year-old daughter, Niaya, for dance lessons at Soulful Arts Dance Academy. And she is running out of reassuring words for her 9-year-old son, David, who has missed two practices with the Orlando Dream Team, an Amateur Athletic Union youth basketball team.

"It's been hard for the kids to have any type of continuity," she said. "It's been hard for them to get into a groove."