Delaying or cancelling a school day for bad weather is something Greenfield Exempted Village School District administrators do not take lightly.
These were once called calamity days across Ohio’s school districts before schools went to an hour-based system for the school year.
School officials are always watching the weather, GEVS Transportation Supervisor Bradley George said. And when there is a forecast of snow, ice, or even large amounts of rain, he monitors the weather more closely.
Greenfield’s school district covers a large area, more than 160 square miles, George said. And the district is in three counties.
As conditions can vary greatly from one part of the district to another, George said he, head mechanic Craig Wise and assistant mechanic Nathan Cook are out on the roads early, like around 4 a.m., when inclement weather strikes.
With the district so widespread, and the varying conditions that can occur across the area, George, Wise and Cook begin their road checks in different areas of the district. And as they know the trouble spots — roads that flood out quickly, difficult hills that become impassable in certain weather, etc. — they make sure to check those areas.
During this time of road checks, George is in constant contact with the transportation supervisors of all other school districts in Highland County, as well as the surrounding area. Additionally, George is in contact with the township trustees in the district. That way, each knows what the other is dealing with, and even potentially what is yet to come to their respective area. They can also determine whether there may be an improvement in road conditions that morning.
George added that the road condition checks are not just about the outlying roads, but about the roads and sidewalks in town, too. He said they are not just thinking about the buses out on the roads, but the students and staff that are driving to school, as well as the students who walk.
The transportation supervisor is always keeping the district superintendent in constant awareness of the situation. It is the superintendent that has the final determination on whether there will be a delay or cancellation.
According to Superintendent Quincey Gray, while the final decision lies with her, that decision is based on the recommendation provided by the team checking the roads.
George said they try to get the information on road conditions by no later than 5:15 a.m. to get bus drivers and staff notified.
When surveying road conditions and making a determination, the bottom line, George said, is that the safety of students and staff is always the utmost concern.
If it is determined that there will be a delay or a cancellation, the information is put out through an all-call to those signed up to receive the calls, posted to the district’s and individual buildings’ Facebook pages as well as other social media, and the information also goes to Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati television news stations, and radio stations WCHO, WVNU and WSRW.
George said there are some times where, typically in the known trouble spots, a couple roads are not navigable for a bus — whether due to flooding, rain or ice. In those cases, he said his bus drivers are great about notifying the affected households. In these cases, which only affect a handful of students, George said parents can bring their children to school, or George will go pick them up in a school SUV.
It’s an option that George said is worth the extra effort to get those few students to school instead of having to shut down the whole district for a couple of affected roads.
“When it comes to calamity day decisions, there is no perfect decision on which everyone will agree,” Gray said. “We do our best to do everything possible to keep our students, families and staff members safe.”
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the Greenfield Exempted Village School District.