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Tough Decisions This Winter for Schools

Tough Decisions This Winter for Schools

This winter has not been a kind one to school superintendents around Ohio. Many of the state's 614 school districts are at or well past their five day limit of days off for snow or cold.

"It always has to be about student safety," said Chillicothe City Schools superintendent Jon Saxton.

He tries to make a decision on whether there will be a delay or closure as early as possible to give parents a heads up.

"We've been right on the bubble with a lot of those calls. It's been really difficult to make so far this winter," he said.

Saxton says about 600 of his district's students walk to school. It's a totally different situation in the Northern Local School District in Perry County. That's where superintendent Tom Perkins says the vast majority are bused to school. However, they face the same issues.

"With our students being rural they may wait on the bus, with long driveways, they may be out there 15 to 20 minutes sometimes," he said.

His day begins by hitting the road himself. He worries most about the rural roads that are maintained by county and township crews. They can be icy and snow covered longer than state maintained highways.

"I've done this for a while now and if I have to discuss whether I think it's safe or it's already determined that it's not safe," he said.

Scot Prebbles, superintendent at Brecksville-Broadview Heights City Schools outside Cleveland also relies on scouts to help him make the final decision.

He factors in how long it will take crews to clear roads and if more snow is on the way. Temperatures have also been part of the equation this year with students waiting on buses.

"They're on street corners and they're waiting. How much time are they going to be outside?"

He says the call has to be made in a small window and it impacts a lot of people.

For Bill Wise at South-Western City Schools in suburban Columbus the decision is either to open to close. Wise says parents told the district they weren't fans of using a delay so it's not even an option any longer.

"When we move forward to have school it's because we're confident that we can get kids picked up and to school in a timely manner," he said.

Even with calamity days racking up, Wise says the decision making process can't change.

"Safety of the students and staff always take priority over where we are in days," he said.

Next year the job may get a little easier for superintendents. The state switches from a minimum number of days required in the classroom to a minimum number of hours.

 

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