The Daily Guide - Waynesville, MO
  • SNOWED OUT: Superintendents discuss decision-making process for snow days

  • With the amount of snow days in recent weeks in Pulaski County schools, people may wonder what, exactly, superintendents consider before making the decision to cancel school.
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  • With the amount of snow days in recent weeks in Pulaski County schools, people may wonder what, exactly, superintendents consider before making the decision to cancel school.
    According to Randy Caffey, superintendent of the Laquey School District, the main consideration for superintendents will always be student safety.
    “The safety of our students and staff is first in the decision-making process. We make decisions we believe to be the best decisions based on the conditions we have, the forecasts and previous experiences,” he said. “Many decisions are judgment calls. Sometimes we make the right call, and sometimes we do not.”
    Judene Blackburn, Waynesville's superintendent, shared similar sentiments.
    “If I am confident that we can safely transport students to and from school, then school will be in session,” she said.
    Blackburn said this decision may sometimes be confusing for residents of the Waynesville School District.
    “Our region is unique in that Fort Leonard Wood brings to our area individuals who have lived all around the world,” she said. “Those who have lived in northern regions think we call off school for a 'dusting,' while those who have lived in the south are surprised school is being held in ‘blizzard’ conditions. I have to make a decision that is appropriate for our region.”
    Crocker's superintendent, Gary Doerhoff, said most districts have multiple resources they utilize when making snow day decisions.
    “I reach [the decision to cancel school] by consulting with my director of transportation, by consulting with law enforcement and by studying current weather reports and forecasts,” Doerhoff said.
    Caffey said Laquey has similar guidelines, but making the correct decision can sometimes be a difficult process that is hard to explain.
    “I am not sure there is a scientific methodology to canceling school,” he said.
    On top of considering the forecast and consulting with other superintendents and officials, Caffey said he also gets out and drives the roads in his district.
    “[The transportation director and I] go out and drive our most problematic areas throughout the district and make decisions based on our road conditions,” he said. “We also depend on our local news and weather stations and websites like noaa.gov to keep us up to date on the weather forecasted, and also look at the MoDot website for road conditions.”
    In Waynesville, Blackburn said all of those factors are considered, but since Waynesville has snow routes, the district can sometimes be in school when other schools cannot.
    “Three transportation department personnel go out in buses at 3:30 a.m. to check road conditions throughout the entire district,” she said of the process.
    Page 2 of 2 - “First, they drive roads used for regular routes. If those are not passable, then the snow routes and turn-around points are checked. If these are passable, snow routes are recommended. If snow routes are not passable, school cancellation is recommended.”
    As is the case with most rural districts in Pulaski County and throughout the state, both Crocker and Laquey are unable to have snow routes.
    “We do not have snow routes as most of our students live on gravel,” Caffey explained. “It is a large part of our decision as we want to be able to try and pick up everyone. There have been occasions when we were not able to run certain roads and those families are contacted.”
    The superintendents all said they try to alert students and families to their cancellation decision as soon as possible.
    For Waynesville, if school is cancelled, Blackburn said the district gets the news out in a variety of ways.
    “Cancellations are announced to the media, on the district’s website and Channel 12. In addition, phone calls are made directly to the homes of parents as early as 5:45 a.m. and to their cell phones, if desired,” she said. “Text messages also go out to those who have requested the service.”
    For Crocker, Doerhoff said the news is announced to the media, and students and families also find out via phone calls.
    He said it is important for schools to have the correct contact info for their students, and that families should always give their updated info as soon as possible.
    The Waynesville School District recently announced that school would be in session on Feb. 14, Feb. 17 and April 18 to make up for snow days. Make-up days will either be announced on the Daily Guide's Facebook or in print as that information becomes available.
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