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Callaway schools brace for frigid weather

Callaway schools brace for frigid weather

January 5th, 2014 in News

Pat Jennings, of Fulton, shovels the snow off of her steps and sidewalk in nine degree weather Thursday morning. Jennings said she needed to shovel the snow so her aunts, 80 and 82, could safely reach her home before they headed out to the casino in Boonville. She descibed the snow as powdery, and said she was thankful it wasn't very deep. "It could be a lot worse," Jennings said. A Winter Weather Advisory and Special Weather Statement was sent out by the National Weather Service that included Central Missouri.

Photo by Brittany Ruess

Though snow - potentially up to six inches - is expected to no longer be falling in Callaway County by Sunday night, local school districts will still be watching the weather as classes are slated to resume Monday.

On Saturday morning, the National Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory and Special Weather Statement that includes Central Missouri. Colder than normal temperatures are expected, according to NWS. With temperatures forecast at a high of about 1 below zero degrees for the Fulton area and wind gusts up to 30 mph, the wind chill could get to minus 30. At that rate, exposed skin can begin developing frostbite within 30 minutes, according to NWS.

Fulton Public Schools

Jacque Cowherd, superintendent of Fulton Public Schools, said a determination will be made late Sunday or early Monday as to whether students will return to school Monday for their first day in class following the winter break.

"We'll have to evaluate it at the time," Cowherd told the Fulton Sun on Saturday morning.

Cowherd said school district staff had already made sure the buses were running and ready to go while the buildings were being checked to ensure the heaters were working properly.

"We're trying to be proactive," Cowherd said.

But, he said, there are many factors to consider before closing school.

"A lot of it depends on how much snow we get and when it comes," Cowherd said.

He said if the parking lots are clear, it would increase the likelihood of students returning to school. Cowherd said when temperatures fall to 5 below, they start evaluating that factor as some students must wait for a bus outside or walk to school.

As always, road conditions are a factor and could determine how long a student would have to be outside waiting on a bus. Cowherd said he hoped with clear roads the bus drivers could be efficient on their routes to minimize the time students stand outside.

Parents sign up for text alerts from the school district by visiting www.fulton58.org and clicking on "Hornet Alert" on the lower right side of the page.

North Callaway

North Callaway R-I Schools Superintendent Bryan Thomsen said he has been monitoring the weather and shared Cowherd's wait-and-see philosophy.

We'll just check Monday morning really early," Thomsen said.

Parents are notified via a phone system if classes are canceled and the district will post the message on its website, www.nc.k12.mo.us. Thomsen said road conditions, wind chill and whether the buses will start as the three considerations to cancel school.

"When it's getting to be negative 10, negative 20 - that's when we begin to consider it," Thomsen said.

South Callaway

With the combination of snowfall and negative number temperatures, South Callaway R-I Schools Superintendent Kevin Hillman said it complicates how to call off school.

"If there's a little bit of snow, we deal with it and move on. If there's (low) temperatures, we deal with it and move on," Hillman said. "But, we're looking at both those elements now."

Hillman said he is confident in the bus routes to pick up students efficiently when one element is at play, but snow could slow down buses, leaving students at bus stops for longer periods of time. If school is open, Hillman said he hopes students dress properly for the weather.

Hillman said he has been monitoring various reports and communicating with the transportation and maintenance supervisors along with other area superintendents. Hillman and the maintenance and transportation supervisors will meet today. He said they will make the determination as early as possible.

New Bloomfield

David Tramel, superintendent of New Bloomfield R-II Schools, said his first step is to meet with Steve Smith, the district's supervisor from Durham School Services - the company that provides busing - to assess if its mechanically possible for the buses to drive.

Tramel said he and Smith will meet today.

After checking for mechanical issues, they will observe the road conditions. He said Smith checks parts of bus routes that are more dangerous. Gravel roads tend to cause more problems during inclement weather, so those are heavily monitored as well.

If there's any potential for a bus to slide off the road, Tramel said he doesn't take a risk.

There is a small number of students who walk to school, but with below-zero temperatures, Tramel said he doesn't want to take chances with those students either.

"I can't wait until spring," Tramel said. "Snow is pretty until after the first of the year."