Archive for Thursday, December 13, 2007

Weather puts heat on B-L schools

December 13, 2007

This season's first tastes of wintry weather caused Basehor-Linwood school district officials to evaluate its inclement weather policy on three separate occasions.

Heavy snow, which began mid-morning Thursday, prompted district officials to dismiss classes an hour early to ensure the safety of students, parents, staff and faculty.

"Generally I hate early dismissals because parents aren't home," Superintendent Bob Albers said.

But roads were getting slicker as time wore on into the afternoon.

"If all our schools dismissed at 3, I wouldn't have a problem, but we do have two schools that dismiss at 4," Albers noted. "By the time bus routes are done, it's dark. It's to try to get those students at those late-dismissing schools home before it gets dark."

Despite his reservations, Albers said Thursday's early dismissal worked remarkably well.

The district's recently added SchoolReach system or automated calling tree was given partial credit for the smooth early dismissal. Parents of schoolchildren are automatically called with a message from district officials informing them of early dismissals, school closings or any other information the district chooses to send out. This allows work ing parents to make arrangements to either pick up their child or have a place for them to stay.

Bus drivers are instructed to make sure there is someone home or proper arrangements have been made when they drop off a student.

"They are to make sure they're able to get in the house and that there is someone there," Albers said. "If they can't make sure, they're supposed to bring them back to school. All the kids were delivered this time. Nobody was brought back."

Freezing rain, which created icy conditions, caused school to be canceled both Tuesday and Wednesday. Albers said in cases there is an expectation of bad weather, Richard Drennon, director of building and grounds, and transportation coordinator Cheryl Blackburn evaluate road conditions several times during the night and into the early morning.

"They'll check the back roads and the highways both," Albers said. "We pretty much know where the roads are going to be the worst and so we'll check those."

A suggestion is made to Albers, who also assesses the situation. If the decision is made to cancel school for the day, Drennon and Blackburn begin contacting various radio and television stations to be added to their school closings lists. Albers then sends out a message on the SchoolReach to inform parents and staff.

Normally, Albers said, school would not be canceled just on the basis of cold weather.

Albers said in his experience he can remember canceling school maybe once for a wind chill that was 30 below, but it is usually uncommon.

"Normally it doesn't get cold enough here that we dismiss for that reason," he said.

The district has built into its school calendar the equivalent of about three and a half days for inclement weather cancellations, Albers said. If the weather continues down this path, students can expect to attend school for a few extra days this spring to make up those missed hours.

"Normally they would make those days up at the end of the year," Albers said. "But, in an average year, three and a half days is going to be plenty."

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