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Schools watching weather later this week

Safety main concern

Posted: December 4, 2013 - 5:54pm

With a potential for icy weather creeping in later this week, local school districts are ready to make decisions about keeping classes on schedule or taking a snow day.

Greg Murry, superintendent of Conway Public Schools, said they close schools “whenever it is apparent that student safety could be in jeopardy as they travel. Street conditions are what we consider.”

“It is also interesting to note that rural roads on which our busses must travel might be icy but city roads might be relatively clear at the same time,” he said. “If our busses can’t run their routes, we won’t have school even when for example Prince Street might be clear.”

He said they will usually make the call by 5:30 a.m. and communication it through the school district’s Facebook account, the district website, ParentLink phone call and the media.

“We will notify as quickly as a decision is made,” he said.

Murry also noted that if school is canceled this Friday, that school day will be made up Jan. 6, which is currently scheduled as a teacher professional development day.

St. Joseph School Development Director Nicole Rappold said St. Joseph follows Conway Public School’s call on inclement weather.

“If they close, then we close,” she said. “This is due to their close attention to bus routes and other areas of concern.”

Vilonia School District Superintendent Frank Mitchell said decisions about keeping schools open or closing them due to weather is “one of the most difficult decisions I have to make” because the weather can change after the call is made.

“Our goal is to make the decision at the earliest possible time and no later than 6 a.m. on the day in question,” he said. “I would much prefer to make the call the night before an expected occurrence; however, a difference of one or two degrees or the movement of a front can change a decision overnight.”

He also said Vilona is a “bedroom community” where many parents work out of town, so the school officials are hesitant to start school an hour or two late. They also do not release students early “unless absolutely necessary” for the same reason.

Guy-Perkins School District Superintendent Brian Cossey said his school system officials try to make the call by 9 p.m. the evening before bad weather is expected to hit.

“There are instances in which we wait until the morning of, but we prefer the evening before so that our parents can prepare,” he said.

Larry Walters, superintendent of the Mt. Vernon-Enola School District, said they will make the call to cancel classes by 6 a.m. that day if not earlier.

According to the Greenbrier School District website, they will attempt to notify parents and staff of closings due to inclement weather through their call notification system in addition to reporting to several media outlets.

Conway Christian School’s website stated the school’s goal is to have information out no later than 6:30 a.m. concerning closures due to weather. Email notifications will go out in addition to contacting media.

Mayflower Superintendent John Gray said he plays it by ear.

"It all depends on the weather," he said. "We like to make the call by 6:00 am of the day we may close."

As far as higher education goes, the University of Central Arkansas’ policy is “not to close due to bad weather when students are on campus ... The university may close due to severe weather in some instances when students are not in residence and food services are closed.”

The university does have the option to implement a delayed-start time, which would be announced as early as possible.

This week, however, UCA students already have a “study day” scheduled on Friday and they do not have class in order to give them time to prepare for finals.

Fredricka Sharkey, associate director for media relations for the university, said Bear Facts Days was scheduled for Friday and had been cancelled.

At Central Baptist College, the inclement weather policy states that “when the weather appears severe enough for all travel to be dangerous, classes will be dismissed and administrative offices will be closed. Announcements of such closings and cancellations will be broadcast over area media and the SchoolCast alert system early the day of such closings. PACE class cancellations will be announced by noon on the day in which the evening classes are to occur.”

Hendrix College did not have a policy relating to wintery conditions posted on its website nor did representatives respond by press time, but in the past the college has shut down administrative offices because of ice and allowed classes to be canceled at the discretion of the instructors.

(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at angela.spencer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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