School districts consider delay, closing protocols amid winter weather

Data pix.

LEBANON, Ind.-- The snow and record cold could make it a complicated morning for central Indiana schools.

Districts have plans in place to figure out if they’ll delay or cancel class due to the weather conditions.

It’s Superintendent John Milleman’s first year at Lebanon Community Schools. He’s in charge of many things, including the call if schools have to delay or cancel due to winter weather. It’s a decisions all districts deal with every year.

“Whether it be snow accumulation, is one of the big factors of course or ice and slick road conditions,” said Milleman. “Extreme cold temperature or extreme wind chill-- this is Indiana, this is the Midwest so prepare."

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) have a winter weather protocol, by 5 a.m. leaders make the call. Like other districts, the district superintendent looks at multiple factors. According to the inclement weather policy online, these factors are considered:

  • Amount and type of precipitation
  • Temperature/wind chill
  • Visibility
  • Status of clearing roads and sidewalks
  • Refreeze of melted snow/ice from the previous day
  • Continued snow in the forecast

“As we share roads, there’s a point where the Lebanon Community school part of the road ends and the Zionsville community road begins. We’re in contact with them, Western Boone,” said Milleman.

Hamilton Southeastern Schools review with multiple agencies before making their call. The district sent along information that stated:

Transportation Director Zach McKinney and members of his department will begin driving routes as early as 4:30 A.M. to test road conditions. He also reviews weather reports from multiple agencies, such as the National Weather Service and consults with city and county road crews on their findings during the early morning hours.

The transportation director will update Superintendent Dr. Allen Bourff, who is also in close contact with city officials, local authorities and neighboring school districts to determine the safety of the roads in the area. As soon as possible, the superintendent will make a decision about school delays and/or cancellations, so that staff and students can be notified. The superintendent considers several factors in making the final decision: weather predictions, time of day, wind-chill factor and road conditions.

For Noblesville Schools, inclement weather could result in an e-learning day. That’s if roads are unpassable, buses are not running and the county or state issues weather emergencies or road closures. Online, the district says in a statement:

We understand that our decision affects families and staff in a variety of ways. With that in mind, we are sharing the following information about the decision-making process. While everyone may not agree with the decision made, we wanted to share some of the rationale that is considered.

For Greenfield-Central Schools, the Superintendent says the National Weather Service chart is used as a metric. In a statement, Dr. Harold Olin says:

I felt that applying thresholds of -10 for wind chill and 0 degrees for temperature gave us a slightly more conservative margin in making the call for a 2-hour delay. I check local media sources for local temperature and wind chill at 5:45 a.m. to make the final decision on whether to delay school. It is unlikely to be much warmer two hours later, but a delay will give us more time to warm up buses. It’s also good to have students travel by daylight rather than dark when conditions may be hazardous.

To check on weather and road conditions, Todd Prazeau, Greenfield-Central Transportation Director, and I begin driving our roads at 5 A.M. We also routinely exchange information with city and county highway departments as well as with police and sheriff departments to help make the decision. Because many of our buses are well into their routes by 6 A.M., we must make the decision to delay or cancel school by 5:45 A.M.

According to Wayne Township, the district will consider measures if the air temperature is predicted by NOAA to be -10 degrees or below at 7 a.m. the school will consider a two-hour delay for the start of school. If the air temperature is predicted to remain at -10 degrees or below at 9 a.m. the school will consider closing.

“We look at what our medical community tells us about exposure to what those temperatures are,” said Milleman.

Most districts, including Lebanon, have an app to help parents.

“They can track the actual location of their child’s bus on a GPS and on their app, so perhaps the child doesn’t have to be out at the stop quite as early,” said Milleman.

Keeping kids warm and safe, Milleman says, that’s his job.

“The decisions aren’t easy, but we make those decisions in the best interest of the students safety,” said Milleman.

Check school closings and delays here.

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