Like school kids everywhere and always, 7-year-old Davion Carter and his brother, Kristian, 6, were ecstatic Monday night to hear that school would be canceled Tuesday because of a winter storm that eventually dumped up to a foot of snow across the area.
By ERIC ADLER
The Kansas City Star
Then another day off Wednesday. And now today, too, for almost all schools as morning temperatures are predicted to dip below zero, too cold for kids to wait for buses.
They were out here playing and making angels in the snow, their dad, Lee Carter, 43, said Wednesday as he shoveled snow from his driveway on Norton Street in Kansas City.
Only a few houses up the block, the story was vastly different.
For Jonathan Kesler, 31, his wife and their daughters, ages 6 and 4, the first snow day was a day in a house so cold and lacking in food that the Keslers felt compelled to call a grandparent in Leavenworth who drove down in the storm to take the girls someplace better.
Without a steady job and with deep debts, Kesler saw his utilities shut off three months ago. For him and his family, and presumably thousands of other needy families across the area, snow days are days when the cold realities of life become even harsher.
Questions how to feed the kids, how to keep them warm, who will care for them when parents must leave for work mount like drifts.
When they have school, Kesler said, at least I know theyre warm and getting fed.
For some children, the breakfasts and lunches they receive for reduced prices or for free can be the only substantial meals of the day. In Jackson County, more than half of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches. In many schools in the Kansas City Public Schools, the number is higher than 90 percent.
Sister Berta Sailer, co-founder of Operation Breakthrough, a social organization dedicated to helping impoverished families, said concerns about the welfare of children arise every time school is canceled because of inclement weather. Many low-income working mothers bring their children to be cared for at Operation Breakthroughs facilities at 3039 Troost Ave.
During this storm, for the first time, Operation Breakthrough closed its before- and after-school programs for children.
Never happened in 47 years, Sailer said.
The decision came hard. Their concerns, she said, were for parents with children who might be forced to wait in the cold for city buses to bring their kids to the programs. Given the amount of snow, it was unclear how long riders might have to wait.
We were very fearful of what would happen, she said. You know a lot of the people on the city buses are carrying small babies. The moms have to walk to the bus with their kids. Then they have to get back on the bus and go home, or go to work.
Regarding meals: Im sure that food is an issue, Sailer said. Before the snow came, we had a lot of people come to our food pantry.
On weekends, when kids arent being fed at school, Harvesters BackSnack program serves around 19,000 children in a 26-county area. The program provides students with breakfasts, two other meals and snacks to tide them over until school resumes on Monday. For them, snow days can mean days in a row with little to eat.
On Saturday, three days before the storm, Shelley Riley, 38, and her daughters, Crissandra Kinney, 13, and DaVette Kinney, 11, entered the City Union Missions family shelter. For four years, Riley said, she had been working a part-time job while going to school full-time to become a medical assistant.
She recently graduated with loan debt of more than $60,000. Then she lost her part-time job. Utility, rent and other bills piled up.
I got so far in debt, she said, my lights and gas and the water in my house were turned off.
She left the home with her family in November and stayed with various relatives until she entered the shelter.
There, she said, it is warm and friendly. On these days out of school, her children are well cared for.
Theyve really made it awesome for the kids, she said, offering the children games and movies and a gymnasium.
And if they had been at home on these snow days? Frigid, Riley said. A snow day for us would not be a snow day for the typical family. Its hard. Cant go outside, because its too cold inside, and you have to keep the heat in. Can I eat that peanut butter? No, you cant, because we might need to save it for dinner.
All things considered, DaVette said, Its better to be in school.
Snowfall at KCI was 8 inches, breaking the previous Kansas City record for Feb. 4 of 7.4 inches set in 1924.
Arctic air will produce wind chills of 15 to 20 degrees below zero. An advisory is in effect until noon Thursday.
Several school districts will remain closed Thursday.
To reach Eric Adler, call 816-234-4431 or send email to email@example.com.