Superintendents Frank Galicki of the Dallas School District and James McGovern of the Lake-Lehman School District are the men ultimately in charge of how safely students travel to school during inclement weather.
When our area saw its first brush with snow of the season this past Tuesday, Lake-Lehman remained on its regular schedule while Dallas called a two-hour delay.
That isn't the way things are normally done. It all comes down to planning and timing. Galicki explained that all schools communicate before and during storms or anticipated weather to coordinate schedules as much as possible.
There is a network; the West Side supers contact each other, he said.
Usually, the decision to call a delay or cancellation is made by 6 a.m. Galicki explained that since Tuesday's snow didn't start until late morning, that decision was not made until approximately 6:20 a.m.
McGovern said that some Lake-Lehman students get picked up by 6 a.m. For his district, the decision to have a two-hour delay or a cancellation needs to be made no later than 5:45 a.m. before buses are on the road. Because snow didn't start to fall until later in the morning on Tuesday, McGovern felt it was safer to get students to school before the roads got worse, and then wait it out until the end of the day when roads were clear.
The only time it gets tricky is when the private schools make a different decision, said McGovern. West Side Career and Technical Center also had a two-hour delay on Tuesday.
This is one of the first times we have had a situation like this arise, he said. Because of the communication between districts, schools are usually on the same schedule but on Tuesday, Lake-Lehman students who attend West Side CTC were given a study hall period until buses were up and running.
Before decisions are made, both Galicki and McGovern contact the director of the bus companies serving their respective districts. For Dallas School District, that means calling Jeff Emanuel, whom Galicki relies on to give him an evaluation of roads in the district. If Emanuel feels the roads are slick, he will offer an opinion on whether the district should have a delay or a closing.
If officials change the status from a delay to a closing, they make that decision by 8:30 a.m. before buses are on the road.
In other weather situations, like when an overnight storm is anticipated, decisions are made a little differently.
We like to make a decision by 10 p.m. when there is a storm pending so it can make the 10 or 11 p.m. news, Galicki said.
In the case of a cancellation, every district handles make-up days differently. Galicki has found that working snow days into the end of the year works best for his district. He noted that some districts will take days out of extended holidays such as Easter break but because families tend to make travel plans during those times, attendance is poor.
If there is a delay, the school day counts as a full day. McGovern said that, in delay scenarios, elementary classes determine their schedule by room while students in upper grades follow a condensed schedule. High school students have each of their scheduled classes, although they are shortened.
Both superintendents stressed their main concern when making these decisions is the safety of the students, personnel and drivers.