The Herald Bulletin

January 7, 2014

Poor road conditions lead to school closings

By Zach Osowski
The Herald Bulletin

ELWOOD, Ind. — Tim Smith, superintendent of Elwood Community Schools, said road conditions led to the decision to close school Wednesday for a third consecutive day.

He said the roads were not in good enough shape for buses or student drivers to be out driving around. The other districts in Madison County agreed, extending the holiday break until Thursday at the earliest.

“The streets are just a sheet of ice in some places,” Smith said. “There’s nowhere for our buses to turn around.”

He said the shape of the county roads was also a factor in the decision to extend the holiday vacation for Elwood students. In the city, piles of plowed snow on sidewalks left students with nowhere to stand while waiting for the bus.

“It’s not so much a problem with temperatures,” Smith said. “The roads just aren’t safe.”

Alexandria Community Schools and Madison-Grant Schools joined Elwood in canceling early, Anderson, Frankton-Lapel and South Madison schools followed suit later on Tuesday along with private schools.

Smith said he has conversations with the other superintendents before making a decision to try and gauge how the roads are.

“As of noon Tuesday, Madison County was still under state of emergency,” Smith said. “It would technically be illegal for us to have school.”

He said even if the road conditions were downgraded from a red to an orange, which would allow for more travel, it still might be dangerous to have students out driving.

The three days and counting missed may not need to be made up, though, because of the emergency situation of the storm.

Smith said he received an email from Glenda Ritz, state superintendent of public instruction, Monday that said schools could apply for a waiver for Monday and Tuesday. The waiver would clear any school of having to make up those two days.

“It’s being offered because of the emergency nature of the storm,” Smith said. “We plan on applying for it.”

Indiana Department of Education’s Press Secretary Daniel Altman said the extreme cold, not necessarily the snow, was the driving factor behind granting the waivers.

“Not everyone in Indiana got the same amount of snow,” he said. “But the extreme cold was universal and it became an issue of student safety.”

It is up to the discretion of Ritz as to when a waiver situation will apply.

Altman said any school that missed Monday or Tuesday could apply for the waiver, which was sent out to schools, and they would be granted. All of the Madison County schools announced they would be closed Wednesday, but Altman said there had been no decision on extending the waiver.

Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.