How school chiefs make closing callPublished 5:01pm Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Cass and Berrien counties were of two minds when it came to closing school Tuesday.
Cass called off class while Niles, Brandywine and Buchanan were open, as were Berrien Springs, St. Joseph and Lakeshore.
When Niles Supt. Richard Weigel and Brandywine Supt. John Jarpe were formulating their decisions, it was calmer than when students boarded buses.
“Cass County roads were worse,” Weigel said. “I drove pretty much the entire district and knew where bad spots were, in contact with the transportation manager the whole time to determine if buses could get through safely. The roads looked very clear. We talked about the cold. It was seven degrees, but we have very few walkers” except pockets by the high school, middle school and Eastside.
“Buses were pretty much on time,” Weigel said. “I saw one running late. We look at all those different pieces and make a decision,” including that recess would be indoors. “We looked at wind chill, but there was virtually none this morning. It was very calm early on. We might have looked at it differently if it was windy, but it wasn’t windy. We had a good day in the buildings, with good attendance and good teaching.”
“The key, No. 1, is kids need to be safe. We work on that,” Weigel said. “There may be differences of opinion, but we try to make an educated decision. If parents (disagree and) keep their students home, it’s an excused absence.”
Jarpe and Dave Seidner, maintenance/transportation supervisor, similarly analyze the situation from one side of the St. Joseph River to the other.
Jarpe said there was no blowing snow or wind and didn’t seem to be much of the white stuffed piled up on the ground.
“It’s always a judgment call,” Jarpe said. “You don’t have a crystal ball and weather’s unpredictable. By 6 to 6:30, other districts decided to close. Some people were concerned about temperatures, but they didn’t seem drastic at that time. Should school close for a prolonged cold snap? Not if buses can start and get down roads safely and students dress appropriately. When I came to work about 7:15, it was blowing and snowing more, but buses pretty much ran on time and attendance was normal. Had it snowed harder at 5, we could have made a different decision, but, at that point in time, it did not seem conditions were bad enough to call off school.”
Single-digit temperatures factored into Dowagiac’s decision to be idle for the first time this winter. At 5 a.m., Supt. Daniel said, county roads had “not been touched” by plows.
Transportation Supervisor Kevin Kelm examines the situation as early as 3 a.m., as will Maintenance Supervisor Dave Daniels because “that also triggers our plowing of parking lots and sidewalks,” Daniel said.
Cassopolis, Edwardsburg, Lewis Cass Intermediate School District and Marcellus all canceled school, although Southwestern Michigan College, which doesn’t have youngsters walking to school or waiting at bus stops, remained open.
“I do know that snow sort of hit us,” Daniel said, estimating a fall of eight to 10 inches. “I almost always try to be on the side of let’s have school, but I’m very cautious about ice” under snow. Fog might merit a delay because it tends to clear.
Districts get five snow days before they have to start making up time in the spring.”