'Be Prepared': School closing policies - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

'Be Prepared': School closing policies

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Bus drops off kids last winter at Early Childhood Center in Quincy. Bus drops off kids last winter at Early Childhood Center in Quincy.
Traffic during a previous snowfall. (File Photo) Traffic during a previous snowfall. (File Photo)
Buses parked in the cold in Quincy. Buses parked in the cold in Quincy.
QUINCY, Ill. (WGEM) -

Have you ever wondered what factors go into the decision to cancel school because of winter weather?

Quincy Public Schools Superintendent Roy Webb said he will make a decision on delaying or canceling school after a discussion with the district's Transportation Director.

The Transportation Director checks road conditions and is in contact with state and local transportation officials.

Webb said he's received criticism on days classes were held after snowfall, but there are a lot of factors he has to take into consideration.

"If I don't have school, I also put kids at risk," Webb said. "We have a lot of single parents, a lot of parents that if they don't go to work, they may not have a meal that night."

It's important that we have school and it's consistent that kinds have a place to go. They get breakfast. They get lunch. It's a safe place for them to be.

In Hannibal, Superintendent Susan Johnson said she watches the forecast days out in advance on both local and national fronts. If they expect any sort of precipitation, she said they are in talks with MoDOT about plans for clearing the roads. 

Johnson said she and transportation director Scott Speer get up at 4:30 a.m. and start driving the roads in their own cars. They especially drive down the rural roads and areas with hills. 

She also calls the superintendents from the neighboring school districts to see what they are seeing and what their plans are. 

Johnson said the goal is to make a decision by 5 a.m. or 5:30 a.m. at the latest. She said they want to make the decision before the food staff comes in and starts preparing breakfast and before the bus drivers get out. 

Hannibal schools rarely cancel for cold weather, according to Johnson. When the temperature gets low, she said they check all the heaters and furnaces to make sure everything is working and turning on properly. If they have an issue with the heaters, they would consider canceling.

She said the main thing is being able to keep the building warm and making sure the buses will start and run. 

Once Johnson makes the decision, they have a calling tree they utilize to alert staff. They then contact the news to spread the word and then send out the text/voice alerts at 6 a.m. 

In Fort Madison, Superintendent Erin Slater said they take four factors into account: road conditions, temperature, visibility and weather warnings.

She said they also check with surrounding districts. 

Slater said the director of transportation drives the rural routes and collaborates with her. She said they make the decision together. 

According to Slater, there is no set temperature for closing. She said they make a judgment call based on warnings from the National Weather Service. 

Slater said they try to make the decision before the bus routes begin, which is between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. 

If it looks like significant weather is coming later, Slater said they monitor it closely and try to make an early out decision early enough that students can get home before it gets too bad. 

In Macomb, Superintendent Patrick Twomey said the decision is 100 percent on his shoulders. 

When the the temperature is forecasted to get around 20 below, Twomey said he gets up at 5 a.m. and walks a mile with no gloves and no hat. If he can complete the walk and is cold but not painful, they will have school. If he has to turn around early or is in pain afterwards, he cancels school.

He said he does this because the farthest a student would have to walk is one mile. 

Twomey said the district is divided into four quadrants. If it's snowing or has snowed, he gets up at 4:30 a.m. and drives bus routes in all 4 quadrants. If he can do it safely in his car, he said he won't cancel. 

Twomey said he does not cancel school based on a forecast. He said the decision to cancel school or not is usually made by 5:30 a.m. but no later than 6 a.m.

We reached out to the Keokuk Community School District for details, but calls were not returned.

Click here to see our other stories this week as part of Winter Weather Preparedness Week.

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