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Schools cope with cold reality

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They didn’t want to make the call. Again.

But school superintendents were told that wind chills would be 25 degrees below zero Tuesday morning. So for the sixth time in 17 school days, they made the decision to cancel classes.

Umpteen other times, they’ve started school two hours late due to the weather.

Temperatures and wind chills that are in the single digits or below zero are dangerous for students to be outside in, and the frigid air also stops buses, especially older ones, from working properly.

On Monday evening, school officials realized that temperatures would drop low enough that some of their buses’ doors wouldn’t close and brake lights would likely be frozen and stop working. When the worry is whether students can get to and from school safely, they decide to close.

“Really for us, it came down to the busing situation and making sure we could keep everybody save en route to and from school,” Franklin Superintendent David Clendening said.

Students have missed at least four, and in some cases six, days of school so far this year. Some districts, such as Greenwood, have multiple snow days built into their calendar that will now be used to make up for the days missed.

Clark-Pleasant and Franklin are tacking each day missed onto the end of the school year.

Center Grove and Clark-Pleasant schools also have to decide how to reschedule all of the days that were missed around commencement in May.

Center Grove officials already were finalizing the schedule for commencement, which for now is set for May 31. The school board is expected to decide at its board meeting on Feb. 20 when the canceled days will be made up and whether graduation needs to be rescheduled, spokesperson Stacy Conrad said in a written statement.

Students are scheduled to graduate from Whiteland Community High School on May 30, but now Clark-Pleasant will be in session June 2 to make up one of the five days classes were canceled. High school officials are working to find another way the seniors can make up the days they’ve missed so they won’t have to return to school two days after commencement, director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains said.

“No decisions are going to be made anytime soon. But at least some brainstorming can occur, and people can start to generate some ideas,” Rains said.

The county’s six public school districts canceled class between two and four days earlier this month after the year’s first round of winter weather came through. School districts can apply for a waiver from the Indiana Department of Education so they won’t have to make up two of the days missed, and at the time school officials were grateful that the delay happened at the start of the semester, rather than after classes had begun.

But since school resumed there’s been a two-hour delay or cancellation every week due to snowfall or frigid temperatures. Along with the days classes have been canceled, students also have missed between 26 and 42 hours of class time because the start of school has been delayed so often this winter.

No one knows whether the temperatures and snowfall in February will be any better.

“It’s an interesting winter. I think we’re concerned just because we’re quickly evaporating the days. We’re going to get into June before long. But we also can’t control the weather,” Clendening said.

When snow or other severe weather hits, all six public school superintendents typically conduct a conference call so they have an idea what else is being considered throughout the county.

They each have different issues to consider. Franklin, for example, has more students living in rural areas where snow can blow across and cover roads than some other districts. While officials from each school district make the decision they feel is best for their students, typically no one wants to be the only one to remain open or to close, Clendening said.

School officials still have a month-and-a-half left of winter, and even as they’re running out of days to reschedule school, that doesn’t add pressure to stay open during severe weather. If the temperature drops too low or the roads are dangerously slick with snow and ice, classes will be canceled, Clendening said.

“I’m going to keep safety for our kids and our teachers and our staff as the No. 1 thing. And if we have to get into June, we have to get into June,” Clendening said.

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