In Jan. 15 IssueNews-Register
Russell County students and teachers have missed more than 10 days of school already this school year due to the snowy weather and with spring nearly 70 days away there is a possibility of many more before winter ends.
School transportation officials this week said the number one objective was the safety of the students involved when it comes to making a decision on canceling classes.
Last year, local schools missed a total of 15 days but this year they had missed six days before the Christmas break and it looks like last year's number may soon be passed.
Snow covered and icy roads along the 2,800 miles of county roads that buses travel each day are a cause for concern for bus drivers as buses, with their high profile, do not adjust well to the roads and can be extremely hazardous to both those aboard and other vehicles on the road.
School officials monitor weather forecasts closely from a variety of sources, including the National Weather Service, WBKO television in Bowling Green and AccuWeather.com in order to obtain the most accurate and up-to-date information available. Officials also stay in touch with the surrounding counties of Adair, Casey and Taylor counties but many times it comes down just to a local decision.
The amount of snow received by one county may be completely different from what they receive in another, likewise the amount of snow received in one part of the county can be different than in others.
Officials said just because you can look out your front door and see the roadway where you live doesn't mean it can be seen everywhere in the county and that many times the outer roadways of Creelsboro, Jabez and the Salem area are crucial to whether school will be in session.
There are a certain number of roads in the county that officials travel in the early morning hours to see if they are safe enough for buses to drive on if there is inclement weather. If not, schools are canceled with a decision that, at the latest, comes at 5 a.m.
A decision on school must be made by that time because students who ride from Jabez usually are on their buses at 5:20 a.m.
Officials say they would much rather call off school for an entire day rather than risk the chance of a student getting injured in an accident.
Tough calls could see school officials driving 50-60 miles of county roads before making a final decision.
Turnaround spots are also tricky areas as they are not treated and rely on Mother Nature to melt the snow and ice. At times the decisions are tough but need to be made promptly to allow parents and caretakers the proper amount of time to make alternate plans for the day.
Sometimes, school can even be called off based on the forecast. For example if snow is forecast for later in the day, officials will cancel school so buses won't have to make the treacherous rounds to drop-off the students.
Transportation officials also take into account the fact that many teenagers drive to school and that putting them on slick roadways could end up tragic there as well.
Other than school buses ending up in a ditch from time to time, Russell County has not seen any severe bus accidents due to snowy weather and officials would like to keep it that way.
The worst thing, officials say, is when bad weather systems roll through Russell County around 5 a.m. This type of situation calls for a quick decision from them on whether or not to have school.
They try to make the decisions as far in advance as possible to allow folks to make alternate plans for their day, but sometimes that can be difficult to do when weather situations are pending.
One or even two-hour delays are sometimes used by the school system but are not utilized here like they are many places.
The many rural roads that buses travel may not see any sunlight until up in the day and the melting of the ice is prolonged that way.
Officials say many times it is better to cancel the entire day rather than risking it on a delayed time.
Officials say they know they can't make everyone happy but will strive to make the best and safest decisions for the children of the community. The school board now also has a notification system that will call parents on the telephone to let them know that school is canceled as soon as a decision is made. Anyone wishing to be added to the telephone list should call the board of education at 270-343-3191.