By Jen Bookhout
The Conway Springs and Argonia school districts cancelled school for two days last week in response to a snowstorm stretching across a large part of the state.
Snow accumulation ranged from six to 10 inches in regions across South Central Kansas on Tuesday. Additionally, Wednesday and Thursday served up painful wind chill temperatures in most of the area.
With only five days factored into school schedules to account for weather and other cancellations, making the decision to close school can be complicated.
Conway Springs Superintendent Clay Murphy explained that many factors help determine whether or not schools will be open.
“I try to look at wind chills, how clean we can get the parking lots,” Murphy said. “This time was a bit different because we had more snow.”
Murphy takes it upon himself to drive the streets in two-wheel drive when determining whether the roads are drivable. Similarly, Argonia Superintendent Julie Dolley visits each of her schools on snow days to check on the conditions of the buildings.
• Five days built into schedule for weather delays and cancellations, started late because of storm damage
• Used three days this year
• Closed Feb. 4-5 and Feb. 10
Argonia USD 359
• Five days built into schedule for weather delays and cancellations
• Used two days this year
• Closed Feb. 4-5
When making cancellation decisions, both Murphy and Dolley take into consideration road conditions for secondary and country roads. Buses travelling the usual routes have detour options if they encounter impassable roads.
Maintenance crews in both districts worked long hours on Wednesday to unbury all of the school parking lots.
“The crews at the schools did a great job, and the city crews did a great job with the streets, and we were able to get back in earlier,” Murphy said.
Weather cancellations can wreak havoc on extracurricular schedules as well. Dolley said she often spends snow days working in her office, attempting to get a head start on rescheduling extracurricular activities.
“We just have to be really flexible and adapt,” Dolley said.
Additionally, snow days can affect the pocketbooks of hourly paid employees in the school district. If they aren’t working, they aren’t getting paid. Some districts allow these employees to use vacation or leave pay to cover these days.
In general, Kansans know to expect rapid changes in weather that may cause delays or cancellations, so many prepare ahead of time. School districts often communicate with each other when making decisions on such cancellations, but that never makes the decision process easy.
“It’s just a difficult decision because the situation of students that live out of town is different than students who may live across the street from the school,” Murphy said. “We try to make the decision based on everybody, but it’s tough because every individual situation is different for each student.”
However, not all school districts will make the same decisions each time, as was seen in closing discrepancies across the region last week, and again on Monday when another two to five inches fell across South Central Kansas. Conway Springs schools were closed on Monday while Argonia schools remained open after the additional snowfall.