School district staff hit the roads to determine school closings - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

School district staff hit the roads to determine school closings

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KANAWHA COUNTY, WV -

Lately many schools across the tri-state have had their share of snow days, but without a lot of snow.  How do schools make the decision to close or delay?  Cabell, Putnam, and Kanawha County school districts all have similar guidelines.

While there are a lot of variables, one factor that really drives the decision is can kids get to school safely?  The only way to find that out of course is to hit the roads.  George Beckett, Executive Director of Pupil Transportation with Kanawha County schools explains that usually by 3 o'clock in the morning there are several people driving the school bus routes to test conditions.

With more than 900 square miles in Kanawha County, they have a lot of land to cover.  Sammy Bounds is a bus driver with Kanawha County schools.  He explains that even though the roads may be alright, if the bus turn-around is icy then you can't get turned around and that route would have to be canceled.

Although school buses are not four-wheel drive, they are equipped with chains for better traction, but that does not make driving on ice easy.  Bounds says that because a bus has so much weight, you can't stop as fast as you can in a regular vehicle.

If a majority of bus routes aren't drivable, schools will be closed.  Beckett explains that the decision to close schools is not always about snow. Recently many schools were closed due to frigid temperatures and ice.

The decision to close or delay school is based on road conditions, temperatures, the weather forecast, and other variables.  Beckett says even if it's safe to run a bus you have to think about all the other traffic on the road, plus the fact that kids will be waiting on the side of the road for a bus.  The main concern for the school district is the safety of the children.  Bounds says as a bus driver hauling all these kids to school, you have their lives in your hands and it's a whole lot riskier than driving a personal vehicle.

Kanawha County school district builds days at the end of the school year into the calendar in order to make up for missed days of school.  Unfortunately, they are nearly out of days which could mean a slightly longer school year.  Putnam County has already tacked on days to their school year, getting out now on June 6th.

In addition to school closings and delays, some school districts have weather codes.  These codes are different for each school district and usually only concern when staff reports.  For example, Code Orange in Cabell County schools means that students do not report, but staff does.