Q. We were talking recently and you said you get more guff from calling off school than any other thing.
Yeah, this time of year, that’s the way it is.
Q. I thought I would give you a call and see what the process is to close school.
The first thing is just keeping a close tab on the weather. Any time we have the possibility of precipitation and freezing temperatures we’ve got to get up and make sure things are good before we roll in the morning. I was counting. I think I’ve gotten up at 4 a.m. 14 times this winter to check weather and roads. I don’t always drive them, but I have to make sure that we don’t have anything coming down or any dangerous situations.
If it looks like we have precipitation, obviously we get out and drive. We usually drive about an hour, about 45 miles. Sometimes it’s obvious whether we should have school.
Scott Roe, the transportation manager drives the east side of the district. I drive the north and south part of the district on the west side. That way we get a good cross section of roads and conditions.
Q. Then you’all get back together?
Most of it is via phone. There is lots of phoning and texting on these things. We check with other superintendents to see what other schools are going to do, to see what conditions are like in their district. If it’s still coming down and Nevada is getting ice, that’s a pretty good indication it is going to be here next.
Q. Then you have to contact the TV stations?
The actual process of calling off school is a little bit complex. I’ve got several staff members who need immediate notification so they get text messages. That’s the first thing, specifically cafeteria and bus people because they report first, they need the first warning.
I’ve got two online things I have to do for the media for the Springfield television market. Parent Square is our notification service. It comes out text message, voice and email. Then I email the staff and then if we are going to have school, I worry, and if we don’t have school, I quit worrying.
Q. What kind of guff do you get: from people thinking that you should close school or that you shouldn’t have?
It goes both ways. Sometimes we’ll have ice in one part of the district and not in another. People look out their back door and say, “Gosh, there is no ice here. Why are we calling school off?”
Sometimes it’s opposite. They look out on their back deck and see it’s coated with ice just assume their roads are going to be as bad as their deck. That’s why we have to go out and drive them. We need a clear picture of exactly what the roads are like before we make that decision.
Sometimes other things factor into this. If we have a possibility of slick spots, but severe cold, we’ll call it off sooner. Because if we have a problem we are exposing kids to greater risk.
So, there’s a lot more goes into it than would appear at first look.
Q. It was my opinion once or twice that you had called off school just because it was too cold for kids to stand at the bus stop or walk to school.
We did that twice this year. Generally, I look to see if the National Weather Service has issued a wind chill advisory. That is kind of our threshold for calling off for cold.
You go up north they are prepared for this kind of cold. They are used to it and they would never call off for zero or below temperatures or wind chill.
Here, I’ve got a lot of kids who are not equipped to deal with that kind of cold especially the little bitty ones. Without the proper coat, gloves, hat, etc. It doesn’t take long to freeze up one of those little bitty kids.
Q. What about the make up days for this year?
We’ve had eight days out. Unfortunately, we actually missed a make up day. The bottom line is, we will be in school through May 29 if we don’t have any more snow days.
Q. I heard that if we went to a four-day week, we would not have spring break.
That is pretty much accurate. There aren’t enough four-day weeks in the year to get that in between August and the end of May so you have to lose that spring break.
Q. And I heard that if we had a four-day week, school would be extended by about two weeks.
Yeah, we would have to start around Aug. 10 and would not get done until right up against Memorial Day. The calendar we adopted last night we are starting Aug. 21 expecting to finish May 20. If we throw in make up days, we might have to go as late as May 22.
That includes spring break. We are kinda stuck with Nevada’s schedule for spring break because of the Vo Tech kids. I would love to move it a little bit later in the year, but because of Vo Tech we really can’t do that.
Q, Anything else you want people to know about calling off school?
Just have some patience. We are trying to make the very best call that we can. We have a lot of things to take into consideration every time we make that call.