Many factors impact school delay decisions

Education

INDIANAPOLIS – When Brownsburg Community Schools announced that classes would resume their normal schedules Wednesday, it didn’t take long for area residents to start questioning the decision on social media.

Replies on Superintendent Jim Snapp’s twitter account included concerns about bad road and sidewalk conditions in neighborhoods, as well as temperatures hovering around 0 degrees.

“I don’t want to complain, but our neighborhood hasn’t seen a plow yet,” one twitter user commented.

“Feel sorry for the kids having to walk in the streets just to get to their bus stop cause the sidewalks are not cleared,” another comment said.

Brownsburg Community Schools officials declined to comment on the matter Wednesday.  A spokesperson referred to a district-wide letter to parents that addresses inclement weather conditions.

“It is important to note that school delays due to cold weather are very rare because temperatures do not sufficiently warm up during a two-hour delay,” the letter stated.  “In addition, many working parents have shared that delays create hardships for their families.”

The district’s website also states that BCSC officials coordinate their decisions regarding severe weather with 10 different public safety officials in Hendricks County.  It also states that school officials, including the Superintendent, Chief Operations Officer, Chief of Brownsburg School Police and Transportation Coordinator drive more than 43 miles throughout the district before making a decision to delay or cancel school.  The district covers more than 49 square miles, the website says.

The website also notes that 204 BCSC students walk to school, some up to half a mile each way.

One woman who lives near Brownsburg High School and did not want to be identified said she kept her children home Wednesday because she wasn’t comfortable with them walking to and from school.

“Ultimately the decision is yours to make as a parent,” the BCSC letter states.  “If schools are open during extreme weather and you choose to have your child stay at home, the absence will be treated as excused and any work missed can be made up.”

Severe weather policies vary from school district to school district, often depending on the size and geographical characteristics between communities.

While BCSC doesn’t have a specific policy regarding temperatures, Franklin Community Schools Superintendent David Clendening says a -10 wind chill could result in a two-hour delay for FCS students.  A -20 degree wind chill could result in cancellation.  Nearby, Center Grove Schools’ would consider delaying school if wind chill temperatures reached -20 degrees.

Wind chill did not appear to be a factor Wednesday morning when Center Grove and Franklin Schools were on a two-hour delay.

Center Grove Assistant Superintendent Bill Long said there were still some snow-covered roads in subdivisions within the district.  The delay allowed more time to clear and daylight for students walking to bus stops.

FCS Superintendent points out that weather-related decisions often involve more than snowfall amounts and temperatures.  Other factors include hills and other terrain buses, and drivers must navigate in order to get to school, as well as how many miles must be covered. Many districts face different conditions, even within the same county.

“We all have different areas,” Clendening said.  “If you look at Franklin Schools, we’re 112 square miles that we cover, as opposed to Greenwood at six.”

Other factors could include whether some neighborhoods have streetlights, especially in rural areas on the outskirts of his district.  in those situations, a two-hour delay could be significant in terms of giving bus drivers more ability to see unexpected snow drifts and icy patches.

“It is a difficult decision, I don’t just want to say we’re not going to school, or we are going to school,” he said.  “It really is something that I contemplate, I seek council, and we make the best decision for all of our community.”

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