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Perrysburg Schools News Article

Weather Decisions

January 28, 2015

Dear Parents, Guardians, Faculty, Staff and Community Members,

On Thursday, January 21, Perrysburg Schools cancelled school for the 5th time due to the weather creating hazardous road conditions. As with every weather-related decision, there is considerable discussion about the district's reaction. It is common on any given questionable day that we receive feedback from the community that we got the decision right or wrong. The only thing we can count on is that no matter what decision is made, it will not make everyone happy.

Since it has again been a discussion item in the community, I wanted to share with you the steps we take to make the decision, the items that we consider when making the decision.

Checking the Roads
When questionable weather is expected, the transportation director and I head out to personally check the roads each time. We are grateful that the Perrysburg Township Police Dispatchers and Perrysburg City Police Dispatchers will call the transportation director at 4 a.m. to notify us when officers experience hazardous road conditions. The transportation director and I then split the district in half and drive the roads. The district has 28 square miles and requires 30 buses to transport 2,506 of the 5,000 students in the district. (Included in that figure are 276 non-public and Penta students.) Typically, we begin at the further points in the district and work our way towards downtown. The decision to delay or cancel must be made by 6 a.m. because the district's first bus stop for student pick up is at 6:20 a.m. As we evaluate the roads and conditions at 5:00 a.m. we also must consider what the conditions may be like at the time of dismissal at 3:00 p.m.

When evaluating the roads, we consider how safely cars (and buses) can stop on roads, visibility (fog), conditions of sidewalks and roads for student walkers, weather forecasts for the next 8 hours, wind and drifting, temperature and wind chill, how the buses are functioning in sub zero weather and the progress of city and township road crews. Also, the thought of literally hundreds of teenage drivers navigating roads weighs heavily on decision makers. While we want all employees to make it to and from work safely, the decision to delay or cancel school is not done with the staff in mind. Many staff members must and do report on each and every snow day. These decisions are about student safety.

Many people see the main roads (which deservedly get top priority from the State, City and Township road crews) at rush hour and judge the entire district's road conditions based on their commute at that hour. Unfortunately, not all of our students live on main roads and we must make the initial decision by 6 a.m. Nearly all of our buses navigate neighborhood streets, country roads, winding roads and roads with steep ditches.

Every community has a different set of circumstances and challenges. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to making the decision.

For transportation directors and superintendents, contending with the weather and road conditions is not limited to the dozen questionable mornings that occur during the year. Evening trips, weekend events and out-of-town contests during the winter are always being discussed and considered. Not only do we monitor the weather locally, but we must also pay attention to the weather of those areas where we are sending students.

Unfortunately, our 30 school buses are rolling intersections. Bus drivers do not have the luxury of stopping only at intersections (and staying on the main roads) but must travel and stop intermittently on nearly all of the roads in the school district. Students standing on the curb or shoulder of the road rely on the bus being able to stop and then have the oncoming traffic stop while they cross the road to get on or off the bus. Snow-packed or ice-covered roads become quite slick, making stopping a challenge and as a result dangerous. It doesn’t take a great deal of snow to create those conditions.

Historic Perspective
Whether we have school or it is closed due to snow, the conversations that have been shared by many to me is that we are much “softer” today than we were a generation ago. Frankly, I too have made that observation. Many have speculated as to why this is, maybe it is the intense media attention on weather, the explosion and rage found 24/7 on social media or the litigious society that we live in today. Just for fun, we went back 30 years ago. The graduating class of 1985 experienced cancelations during their high school career:

Year Number of Snow Days
1984-1985 5
1983-1984 4
1982-1983 1
1981-1982 6

With the exception of last year’s record-breaking weather, we have been below the average from 30 years ago for canceling school.

Lost Time
We have had one unscheduled delay and closed school five times so far this school year. Our 2014-15 and 2015-16 calendars say that days will be made up at the end of the year. We are currently gathering input from the Perrysburg Board of Education, District Leadership Team, Perrysburg Education Association (PEA) and Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) on formulating expectations and a plan to address learning during delays and school closures and the recapturing of lost time if necessary. In the event that the district needs to make up time, we are working on creating a plan that will recognize these elements. More details will be announced soon.

Final Thoughts
Here are a few facts that we know. We live in the north. It snows. It gets very cold sometimes. We cannot cancel school every time we get snow or it gets cold. Superintendents who make the decision to have or cancel school due to the weather face an awesome responsibility. I can’t speak for my colleagues but I assume they are haunted by the same thoughts that haunt me on snowy or icy mornings. The hope we all share that everyone makes it in to school and home safely is always in our thoughts. Those observations at 5:30 a.m. are intense and pressure-filled. The greatest fear we all face is that on a questionable morning there is an accident. We have to be prepared to look the community members in the eye and justify our decision on that day.

Thanks for taking the time to read this update. If you have any questions or concerns, please give me a call or email.

Thomas L. Hosler
Perrysburg Schools
419-874-9131 ext. 2103

Posted Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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