Lots of empty seats in some Chicago schools

Many kids take one more snow day.

February 4, 2011

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(Flickr/Mark Hubert)

Friday was the first day back to school after two snow days in Chicago.

Public school officials don’t have numbers yet, but there were lots of empty seats at some schools.

Fifteen minutes before school started this morning, just 23 kids had shown up at Pershing West Middle School—which looked like a castle, surrounded by a fortress of snow piles.

Six school buses normally drop students off here. Today, with district bus service suspended, kids had to find other ways to get to school.

Principal Cheryl Watkins says about two-thirds of students eventually arrived, some taking public transportation.

"I had a couple of parents call in to say, 'My child won’t be here,'" said Watkins. "And then fielded lots of calls that said, 'Is there school today?’ I’m like, 'Yes, you didn’t get my voicemail?'"

Watkins sent automated calls to families telling them class was in session today. She even gave students a homework assignment: to "memorialize" the historic moment. In other words, write an essay about your snow day and the Great Chicago Blizzard of 2011. A stack of fifth-grade papers on Watkins' desk detailed snow drifts and cars "taken hostage" by snow.

School officials say more than 85 percent of teachers showed up to work today. The district resumes bus service Monday.