Fri January 17, 2014
How JCPS, Greater Clark Handle Winter Weather Decisions
It happens every time.
Jefferson County Public Schools decides to cancel school because of the weather—or not—and Twitter lights up with comments; some people oppose the decision, some are supportive.
The issue popped up Friday morning. JCPS is in session; several area school districts aren't.
So, how does JCPS decide to cancel school?
“Anytime there’s a forecast for inclement weather we will be in contact with the National Weather Service, even the day before,” JCPS spokesman Ben Jackey told me Friday morning.
In these early conversations, JCPS officials—including transportation and operations folks—will discuss what weather is being forecasted, when the inclement weather is expected to hit, and what kind of impact it could have on the road.
In the morning—as early as 2 a.m.—JCPS employees will survey the main roads and some of the “trickier” routes to determine their conditions, Jackey says.
“You’re dealing with our transportation department with people who have decades of experience when they’re going out there on the roads. They are bus drivers, former bus drivers who know how buses handle, who know the buses very well, who can tell if the bus itself is going to have a problem,” he says.
The road conditions are reported to the district’s bus compounds and the central transportation department. A decision has to be made around 4 to five 5 a.m., because that’s when the buses begin rolling out, Jackey says.
Also, there is no magic number or inches of snowfall that exists that would lead JPCS to cancel school.
“You could have two inches of snow and it doesn’t stick to the road,” he says.
The final decision is made by transportation and operations officials in conjunction with Superintendent Donna Hargens.
“Unfortunately this year, we know people love to have decisions a lot earlier, but we’ve had many decisions we’ve had to make later in the morning simply because the conditions start to change right at about the time we’d be sending buses out," Jackey says.
Friday morning, JCPS officials didn’t know if school will be let out early in the afternoon.
Greater Clark County Schools has a similar process, but different timeline.
GCCS contracts with AccuWeather for up-to-date weather reports.
The district begins assessing the roads around 3:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. in different parts of the district, then a team composed of Superintendent Andrew Melin, Assistant Superintendent Travis Haire, Transportation Director Gary Green, Facilities Director Steve Hobgood, and spokeswoman Erin Bojorquez discuss the road conditions.
A decision of whether to cancel school is made no later than 6 a.m.