PARSONS – At the first sign of heavy snow and frigid temperatures, school students begin questioning whether the school day may include a two-hour delay, a snow day out of school or perhaps an early dismissal.
Dr. Eddie Campbell, Superintendent of Tucker County Schools, explained what the process is to make those determinations.
“There is no hard and steadfast rule,” Campbell said. “There is no guidance provided by the state related to when we have a delay or cancelation.”
Campbell said ultimately, he makes the final decision after he consults others to gather needed information.
“In all 55 counties in our state, the final decision is made by the superintendent of the county,” Campbell said. “I don’t know if there are any of us that don’t consult different folks before we make those decisions.”
For example, Campbell said they look at the weather three or four days in advance of notification from the National Weather Service when inclement weather is on the way or when we will get an arctic blast.
“We begin looking at those things and put our folks on alert,” Campbell said. “This allows them to keep an eye on the weather for us. Jonathan Hicks, our director of support services, pays attention to the weather forecast and helps me watch for alerts. As far as the road conditions, Harry Poling, our transportation supervisor, looks at the roads the night before and during the night, and we are communicating with one another at 3:30 or 4 a.m. when we are dealing with inclement weather. He may go out on certain roads, especially our back roads, to look at conditions.”
Campbell said Poling communicates directly with the local Department of Highways in Tucker County to talk to them about road conditions both in the valley and up in the Thomas, Davis and Canaan Valley area to get ideas from them on what the conditions look like, what roads have been treated, what roads have not been treated and an estimate of when they will get to certain roads.
“When we are getting ready to make a decision about whether we are going to cancel school or have a delay, we use that information to ultimately make the decision of a delay, cancelation or being on time,” Campbell said. “Ultimately, I take that information and make a decision based on whether or not there are any safety concerns for our kids going to school. I ask if we need a delay to eliminate those concerns and if there ever is a safety issue, it’s an easy call for me.”
Campbell said it is not a difficult decision for him. “If I feel there is any possibility our kids will be put into danger or a precarious situation, I will delay or cancel school,” he said. “We are not going to take a chance. We have to go to school 180 days no matter what. If there is a chance the roads might be slick and a bus may have a hard time, or if it is too cold, I always err on the side of the judgment we are not going to put our kids out in a dangerous situation.”
Sometimes the main roads may appear to be okay, but Campbell said they need to consider the back roads where buses must travel.
“We have some pretty tricky roads that our buses run on,” Campbell said. “A lot of time those roads have not been treated. Those back roads are a big factor in deciding whether to cancel or delay school. The other issue is the geography in the county. There is this magical line going up the mountain where we go from dry pavement to three inches of snow. If it’s bad on the mountain, we can’t go to school in Parsons because of where the school is located. It’s an all or nothing for us.”
Campbell said there’s no real ‘snow days’ built into the Tucker County School schedule.
“Because we have to go with 180 instructional days now every day in the 200 day calendar is accounted for,” he said. “Any day that is missed has to be made up. We have the flexibility and are required to build in six days that are out of environment days. Those are days that are scheduled for students to do studies outside of school and for teachers to not report to work. By code, they are disbursed throughout the year. Ours are in March, April and May. We are required to use those six days first for makeup days. Those six days won’t add anything to the end of the school year. Then, I can begin to use days built into the calendar that are listed as out of calendar days such as a week-long spring break. When I run out of days in the 200 day window, that is when state code mandates I start adding days at the end of the school year.”
Campbell said Tucker County Schools usually average about 18 snow days a year.
He said there is a Tucker County Board of Education policy on the books that says if the temperature or wind chill is 10 below zero.
“We should then consider not having students out waiting for buses and things like that,” Campbell said. “That is not something that is dictated to us by state code – it is something that was created with Tucker County Board of Education that was a guideline to use. It is meant to be a guide or starting point only.”
Campbell said anyone who has question as to why there are delays or cancellations is welcome to contact him at the TC BOE Office by calling 304-478-2771.