The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Local Education

March 5, 2013

Snow day? County school districts make the call

ANDERSON, Ind. — Snow day or school day? It’s a call school districts must make when the weather becomes hazardous. And it’s not one they typically do alone.

“It’s an art and a science,” said Alice Johnson, superintendent of Alexandria Community School Corp.

Of course, school administrators utilize National Weather Service forecasts to keep an eye on things.

And Johnson gets recommendations from the transportation director, bus drivers already out and is in touch with both local and state police who report on county road conditions. Plus, she herself is out at 4 a.m.

The district makes a decision by 6:15 at the latest.

Joe Cronk, director of transportation at Anderson Community Schools, said he goes out around 4 a.m., drives around for about an hour to cover as much ground as he can to get a “whole district picture” and collaborates with different departments to make the call.

Cronk especially pays attention to areas like intersections, bridges and road edges. And districts closely observe factors like snow depth and drifting caused by winds. If a bus can’t see a culvert, for example, it’s a hazard, Cronk said.

He also converses with city and county road crews to see what can or can’t be cleared, and their response often decides whether the district goes with a delay or cancellation.

“The general rule of thumb is if 25 percent is impassable, we close,” he said.

Cronk added that ACS communicates with other school systems like Daleville and South Madison to get an idea of how the northern and southern parts of the county are looking, and often tries to synchronize a plan of action with neighboring districts.

Johnson said she too stays in touch with neighboring superintendents to see what they’re experiencing.

There are not just buses and parent drivers to worry about, she added, but student drivers to look after, as well.

And there’s also maintenance of parking lots and sidewalks to make facilities as safe as possible.

If it’s “crystal clear” that conditions are just going to worsen, Johnson said, they cancel.

Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.

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