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Snowy Sleepovers: Principals share stories of overnight stay at schools

By Gary Lloyd

JEFFERSON COUNTY — Kermit Johnson Elementary School in Pinson had 57 students, 25 teachers, one office coordinator, one custodian, a left-behind bus driver, two substitutes, two administrators and a partridge in a pear tree.

Those are the numbers provided by Principal Keith Lankford of people who remained at the school overnight Tuesday, stranded due to an accumulation of two inches of snow and icy, impassable roads.

“Johnson Elementary School would like to thank the community, our parents, teachers, staff members, bus drivers and students for their efforts in ensuring the safety of each person at our school,” Lankford said. “A special thanks to Michael Clayton and Danny Robinson for shuttling our students to their parents from our school. We would also like to thank families for bringing coffee to our teachers who stood in the icy conditions to make sure our students were safe getting to their cars and to others for bringing blankets for our students. We are truly fortunate to work and live in this incredible community.”

Lankford said students played dodge ball, watched movies, ate dinner, had a midnight snack, participated in computer time and heard a bedtime story.

Paine Primary School students watch a movie Tuesday night.
photo courtesy of Paine Primary School

“We love our kids and appreciate all who chipped in to help,” Lankford said.

At 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Gov. Robert Bentley said there were still about 4,000 students in schools statewide.

“All schools are warm, have food and great teachers and principals caring for children,” Bentley said.

There were 10 students, the administration and one teacher who stayed overnight at Pinson Valley High School. They watched movies and played basketball in Mike Dutton Gymnasium.

“Everything went well,” Principal Terrence Brown said.

About 90 students and 12 faculty members stayed overnight at Clay-Chalkville High School, Principal Michael Lee said.

At 6:10 p.m. Tuesday, there were 30 students remaining at Chalkville Elementary School. At 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, about 100 students, all administrators and three teachers remained at Clay-Chalkville Middle School.

At Pinson Elementary School, 31 students and 18 faculty members spent the night. Students watched a movie and had art and gym time.

“We worked very hard to make this situation a ‘fun adventure’ for all the students,” Principal Karen Jones said.

Hewitt-Trussville High School Principal Tim Salem said the last students at the school left with a school resource officer at 2:30 a.m. He said nine staff members and some of them with children remained and are still at the school. Salem said the students had snacks at 4 p.m. Tuesday, dinner at 7 p.m. and brownies at 9:30 p.m. There were about 30 students at dinner, he said. The students watched a movie in a lecture hall “and everyone enjoyed the extra space we all had,” Salem said.

There were 25 students and 15 staff members who stayed at Paine Primary School overnight. The students had dinner, played in the gym, had computer time and watched movies.

“The kids are happy and well cared for by a very loving staff,” Principal Betsy Schmitt said. “Blessed to work at Paine Primary.”

Nineteen students stayed at Paine Intermediate School.

“We considered moving to (First Baptist Church of Trussville) because we did not have bedding,” Principal Beth Bruno said. “The plan changed and FBC brought us blankets. Thank you, FBC. Thankful for the support and kindness of many of our parents.”

Contact Gary Lloyd at and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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