Students enjoy extended vacationPublished 6:30pm Tuesday, January 7, 2014
As Dowagiac residents spent the last few days digging their way out of the massive snowfall, one thing they didn’t have to worry about was the safety of their children.
The Dowagiac Union School District was closed for a second straight day Tuesday, due to subzero temperatures and poor road conditions brought on by the winter storm that moved into the area over the weekend
For Superintendent Mark Daniel, the decision to call off school was easy to make under the circumstances, as the city seen wind chills that reached as low as 40 degrees below zero.
“Anytime there is immediate danger of frostbite, that is pretty much an indicator to call of school for the day,” Daniel said.
Daniel and the rest of the administration announced they would be closing on Monday at around 2 p.m. Sunday, and announced the Tuesday closing at around the same time the following day. The school made the decision to close the doors on its six buildings after consulting with other area superintendents and officials with the Cass County Road Commission.
“We want to make these decisions as early as we can,” Daniel said.
The superintendent said that the last time he’d seen accumulation on this level was nearly five years ago, adding that the district hasn’t experienced such chilly temperatures since 1997.
“This is by far the worst snowfall that we’ve had, and by far the worst temperature as well,” Daniel said.
While the district’s students enjoyed the extension to their winter break, administrators spent the last few days surveying the region’s roads and monitoring weather reports, to help them determine whether to remain closed while crews continue their efforts to clear the county’s roads. The superintendent said he took part in the inspection efforts, estimating how difficult it would be for the district’s buses to travel in the morning.
“We’re looking at the roads around the Twin and Sister Lakes areas, and we’re seeing a lot of single lane roads right now,” Daniel said. “We had to back up around half a mile because one of the roads wasn’t passable.”
In addition, Daniel is cautious of wind chill temperatures remaining below zero throughout the week.
“The forecasts call for temperatures that are still pretty low, and having kids wait for buses in that kind of weather is dangerous.”
If the district cancels school for Wednesday, it would mark the first time since 2010 that the schools remained closed for three straight days.
Even once schools are reopened, the administration still faces the issue of maintaining the buildings’ parking lots, which are typically plowed in the early morning hours before students begin to arrive.
“We have to think about how we’re going to get rid of the snow,” Daniel said. “We’re reached about the maximum size of our snow embankments, so we need to figure when we need to have that snow removed and trucked someplace else.”
In terms of deciding whether to remain open in adverse weather conditions, Daniel said that he and his administration always try to error on the side of safety, for their students and staff.
“I really don’t get any complaints as far closings go,” Daniels said. “While our parents realize that snow is a part of life in Michigan, when there is extreme cold and snow and we feel it’s dangerous for our students, we will close.”