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Politics

Concerning Winter Weather, Local Schools Err On The Side Of Student Safety

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The National Weather Service has announced the possibility of icy weather Thursday morning. Ice on the roads on a school day forces districts to weigh the safety of students against the value of a day’s classes. KSMU’s Shane Franklin has this story on how a couple local districts make that decision.

Dr. Jeremy Tucker is the Superintendent of Logan-Rogersville Schools. During time of inclement weather Tucker says that his district relies heavily on communication with agencies like the National Weather Service, Department of Transportation, and Emergency Management Assistance. 

“In addition to that we will even keep in contact with surrounding school districts, just to kind of gauge how things look in their area. Even as early as 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning, we will have conference calls with the emphasis always being on erring on the side of safety and caution, rather that placing students in harm’s way,” says Tucker.

Tucker says the time of day the winter weather reaches the area is a very important factor in making the decision to cancel school. If it strikes in the early afternoon or evening, then he has time to get out and observe the progress being made in clearing the roadways. He says that the decision is more challenging when the weather doesn’t arrive until the early morning hours.

Tucker says that he tries to make the decision to cancel school or not by 5:30am. He can’t deliberate longer because by that point buses are usually gearing up for their morning routes.

The geography of his district plays a large role, Tucker explains. Since his district covers an area over three counties; Greene, Webster, and Christian, the variety of challenges associated with the differing landscape further complicates the issue.

“It can be entirely clear on one side of the district, but yet have treacherous roads on the other side of the district, but we need to try to make a decision that can help us as far as getting students to and from school safely,” says Tucker.

The roadways, Tucker says, are the largest concern when considering whether or not to cancel school.  Logan-Rogersville and other districts covering large rural areas face a different set of challenges than larger districts, such as Springfield.  He says that Springfield can rely more heavily on its city and county crews to quickly clear the roads, allowing for safe passage of students.

Springfield Public Schools says that they do not take the decision to cancel school for the day lightly. They understand how it can create difficulties for families all over their district, according to their school cancelation policy on their website.

When they do make the decision to cancel school though, they immediately inform the news media, post on social media, and even utilize the district’s AlertNow system, letting parents know by text message.

The Springfield School District factors six snow days into its yearly schedule. We’ll see Thursday if this week’s winter weather will force the district, or others in the area, to actually use one of those built-in days.

For KSMU News, I’m Shane Franklin.