Crews work hard to reopen Groton schools

Groton - School crews shoveled away massive snow drifts blocking portable classrooms and emergency exits, and town public works employees stepped in to help Thursday so Groton Public Schools could open today.

"We are all set for tomorrow," Superintendent Michael Graner said Thursday afternoon. "Now of course there's another storm coming, so I hear, tomorrow morning. So when I say 'We're ready to open now,' that's what I mean."

The National Weather Service forecast a 90 percent chance of snow, mainly after 1 a.m. today, but with little accumulation in Groton, according to the weather service website. Snow was expected to resume after 4 p.m. today, with new accumulation of 1 to 2 inches.

Graner said school crews had mechanical problems with their snow-clearing equipment and ran out of places to put the snow. Town public works employees brought in a front-end loader.

"The town was able to share the equipment and the operators," Graner said. "And the guys did a fabulous job."

Meanwhile, school custodians worked for two days shoveling through drifts as high as 8 feet blocking doors.

Rhonda Thomas, a school department employee for 27 years, worked all day Wednesday and returned to S.B. Butler Elementary School at 7 a.m. Thursday. She shoveled a lot, she said, but wanted to make sure the school was ready for students.

"Now we're just scraping up ice and sand (to) help everything dry out," said Thomas, 58.

The schools' custodial staff showed dedication, Graner said. "They take real pride in their buildings, and they work really hard to make sure things are safe for the kids," he said.

Town public works crews cleared sidewalks along Fort Hill Road and other public sidewalks that serve as routes for students who walk to school.

The public works department covers 93 miles of road, and clears the driveways and parking lots of three public schools: Carl C. Cutler Middle School, Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School and Robert E. Fitch High School, Public Works director Gary Schneider said. School facilities staff handle the parking lots and driveways of the other schools as well as the walkways and emergency exits, Graner said.

Town public works crews worked for 53 straight hours to make roads passable, then went home at noon on Wednesday. They returned at 4 a.m. Thursday. Groton Public Schools were closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday because of the blizzard.

d.straszheim@theday.com

Twitter: @DStraszheim

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POLL

How would you rate your town's performance before and after the blizzard?

A - I had enough information to be prepared and I was able to move around in town due to efficient snow plowing.

51%

B - OK before but I thought my town was a bit slow in clearing the roads.

24%

C - I didn't feel informed prior to the storm and I was stuck at home for more than a day following the snowstorm.

2%

D - I'm expecting improvements for the next storm.

12%

F - Enough said.

11%

Number of votes: 340