GOOSE CREEK - Rob and Kelly Mitchell were prepared for their two sons to have a four-day weekend, but when nasty weather tacked on two additional days, they were caught off guard.
"We had a sitter set up for Friday and I'm off work Monday," said Rob Mitchell, a government contractor and father of Ellis, 7, and Jeremy, 5. "Those days were covered, but we had to scramble to cover the ice days" Wednesday and Thursday.
When the calendar was decided last year, the Berkeley County School District planned a districtwide staff development day for Friday - no school for students - and a holiday on Monday for President's Day. Officials thought that would give families a long weekend to enjoy.
"When we put our calendar together every year, we ask for input and feedback from the public," said district spokeswoman Susan Haire. The district is currently working on the 2014-15 calendar and has three options on its web site, berkeley.k12.sc.us.
But no one was planning on Mother Nature coming to call - twice. As a result, students in Berkeley County got a six-day weekend, but so did students in Dorchester Districts 2 and 4, which stayed closed Friday because of continued power outages and downed trees and limbs in their attendance areas.
Dorchester 2 moved a teacher work day from March 14 to Friday. Students will now attend school on March 14.
"Even if we wanted to open Friday, I'm not confident we would be able to," said Haire. Three of the district's schools were functioning as shelters late Thursday, and nine had no power, she said.
Unscheduled days off - there also were a couple two weeks ago - can leave parents scrambling, Mitchell said.
"It's only been two weeks since we had the other days off for bad weather," he said. "My wife took those days off from her job, so this time I took off. We have no other option."
Between work days, holidays and inclement weather days, in the first six weeks of 2014, Berkeley County students have had only one full week of school, Jan. 13-17, and Dorchester students have had two, Jan. 6-10 and Feb. 3-7.
"It can be really hard on working parents, particularly single parents, when school is closed," said Carolyn Sandifer, who was caring for her grandson, Alex Fields, 10, on Thursday. "I'm retired so I can help my daughter by keeping him. I don't know what she'd do otherwise. He's not quite old enough to leave home alone."
Lindsey Austell, a stay-at-home mom, opened her doors to some of her two children's friends. "I just figured we'd make a party out of it," she said of the seven children, ages 4 to 9, who hung out at her house. "We made valentines and played games. Some of the kids had parents at home and some didn't, but either way I figure this is the stuff childhood memories are made of."
She conceded that she was about out of energy and fun ideas. "I just hope, after this weekend, it's smooth sailing for a while," she said. "I think they've missed enough school."
Barring anymore inclement weather days, the next scheduled day off for students will be spring break, April 14-18. Berkeley students also are scheduled to be out April 21.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.
Alex Locklair, 5, carries a stool over to play another video game while spending Thursday afternoon at The Alley in downtown Charleston, along with Heather Hall, who watches her son Avi Sood, 4. “Its good to have a break,” said Alex’s mother Leslie Sarji, seated at a nearby table.×
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