When the weather outside is frightful

If polar vortexes and winter storms cause snow to pile up and temperatures to plummet again, most local schools will make decisions about whether to cancel or delay classes just as they did last year.

Superintendents and other administrators will drive the roads to see if they’re clear enough for buses to get kids to school safely. They’ll watch temperatures to make sure they don’t drop dangerously low for students waiting at bus stops or walking to school.

If the roads are clear and the temperature and wind chill are above 10 below zero, then school can go on as scheduled. If not, schools either have to delay the start of class or cancel the day and make it up later.

Last winter, local schools lost seven to 10 days of school because of cancellations and two-hour delays. Schools made up four or five days with snow days that were built into their calendars, by adding days to the end of the school year and in some cases by lengthening the school day. The rest of the lost time was not made up — either because schools got a waiver from the state or because students missed only two hours of class, which school districts are not required to make up.

This year, districts have two to seven snow days built into their calendars. If that’s not enough, then the districts will tack additional days on to the end of the school year or see what other options are provided by the Indiana Department of Education, school officials said.

That’s similar to the plans schools had in place last year, since many of their 2014-15 calendars were approved before last year’s winter storms. But school district officials will keep last winter in mind when deciding whether to delay or call

off classes.

Some Indiana districts are working with the department of education so students can complete online lessons throughout the day when the weather is bad.

But school districts have to meet specific requirements to be able to use that option, such as ensuring that all students have devices that will enable them to access their assignments by 9 a.m. And because local school districts, including Greenwood and Franklin, cannot guarantee that all their students have access to computers or tablets if they aren’t at school, they’re not considering the option, superintendents said.

Center Grove, Indian Creek and Franklin schools provide either iPads or Chromebooks for high school students, and Center Grove and Indian Creek also provide devices for some of their middle school students. But right now, no local school district has a device for every student.

At Franklin, for example, not having devices for every student means school officials can’t

guarantee all elementary, intermediate and middle school students would be able to complete lessons online on snow days. But high school students could use their school-issued Chromebooks to work ahead, Franklin Superintendent David Clendening said.

Superintendents also will consider what they learned last winter before deciding whether to delay the start of school or cancel classes.

School districts don’t have set standards for deciding to delay school, but usually they’ll consider a two-hour delay if the temperature or wind chill reaches 10

below zero, Clendening and Greenwood Superintendent Kent DeKoninck said.

By the end of December last year, several school districts already had used two-hour delays because of cold temperatures, but those lows weren’t as harsh as the frigid weather in January and February.

School officials want to be sure that students aren’t waiting for the bus or walking to school in dangerously cold or snowy conditions. But after last winter, parents and students also know how to dress and stay warm at the bus stop when the weather is cold, Clendening and DeKoninck said.

Last year, parents told DeKoninck that it’s easier to ensure students are warm while they’re waiting for the bus when school isn’t delayed.

When school starts on time, parents can keep their kids inside their home or in their car until the bus comes to pick them up. But parents don’t always have that option when school is delayed, especially if they have to be at work

before the start of school,

DeKoninck said.

By the numbers

Here’s a look at the number of snow days local school districts have built into their calendars. School districts are required to make up any days lost due to weather, unless they receive a waiver. Typically, if the number of snow days built into the calendar isn’t enough, the remaining makeup days will be added to the end of the school year:

Center Grove: 2

Clark-Pleasant: 3

Edinburgh: 7

Franklin: 7

Greenwood: 5

Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson: 6