Predictions of ice and snow lead to the popular question — “Will there be school tomorrow?”
The decision to cancel or delay school is not taken lightly by Nacogdoches ISD school administrators. They must rely on the weather experts and road checks to determine their best plan of action.
“Our first duty is to the safety of our students and staff,” said Nacogdoches ISD Superintendent Dr. Fred Hayes.
The second, he said, is to fulfill students’ educational needs while meeting the state’s required attendance days.
Nacogdoches ISD already has seen its fair share of wintery weather in 2014, with students and staff experiencing their first “snow day” and late start of the school year. While some reveled in the rare chance to play in snow, the classroom time lost during that time will need to be made up on another day.
School trustees during the Feb. 20 regular board meeting are scheduled to discuss exactly when the district will make up the missed day.
A waiver for lost time can be requested from the Texas Education Agency if a district misses more than two days due to bad weather, explained Dr. Hayes.
With safety and education of students first in his in mind, Nacogdoches ISD Director of Transportation Loy Walker carefully monitors weather and how it could impact the school day.
Nacogdoches ISD transports close to half of its nearly 6,500-student population to school. If the buses can’t handle the road conditions, school may be cancelled or delayed until the roads are passable.
Walker’s watchful eye goes into overdrive any time he receives an inclement weather advisory like Monday’s Winter Weather Advisory from the National Weather Service in Shreveport.
The advisory begins Walker’s hourly NWS forecast checks and monitoring of predicted road conditions. He shares his findings with NISD administrators who then decide whether it is prudent to delay or cancel school.
In some situations, Walker prepares for a very early morning wake up call — the 3 a.m. road test — where he checks the safety of the roads by driving a bus on several routes.
During the drive, Walker looks for hazardous conditions, such as ice on roads, bridges, and overpasses that would make it extremely difficult and dangerous to operate a school bus.
The process takes about an hour to complete, and Walker takes his findings to Dr. Hayes, who then makes the final decision.
Whether the superintendent decides to go ahead with classes, give the roads time to thaw or cancel school for the day, Dr. Hayes said the top priorities of safety and educating the children of NISD always come first.
“We look to the weather experts first and then decide what’s the best thing to do for our students and staff,” Hayes said. “There’s no exact science but we gather all the facts possible to make the best call at that time.”