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Roads, Forecast Factor in School Closures

7:09 PM, Jan 30, 2014   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- School districts across the state chose to call off classes ahead of the snow and ice that came though the Midlands and much of the south this week.

However, when that winter weather did not reach us as soon as expected, some questioned the decision to keep kids out of school.

"When it gets down to it we're always gonna err on the side of student safety," said Richland School District Two Chief Planning Officer Fred McDaniel.

He says the decision is made based on a number of factors. When considering a delayed start or some recent early releases that can include looking at how soon the students could safely make it home.

"Our buses run a middle school route, then an elementary school route, then a high school route and so running a half day we'd still have students on the bus at 1:30, 2 o'clock, maybe even a little bit later and with the weather projected to hit earlier we wanted to make sure all of our buses were off the road," he said.

In Richland Two the decision ultimately rests with the superintendent, Dr. Debra Hamm, but she consults with administrative staff, other superintendents and the district's transportation and operations team. The team hits the road to check conditions first hand.

"We do have a very large square mile area of bus routes that we monitor. Routes that are in very rural roads that have very little traffic that buses have to travel down and then we have some neighborhoods that have some shady roads and so we have to check those very carefully and we have to check our bridges very carefully," said McDaniel.

The district also keeps tabs on local news coverage, like WLTX, and checks in with the National Weather Service, even holding conference calls to make sure they make the best decision for students.

McDaniel says they always do a debriefing following a decision on school closures or releases to evaluate their decision.

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