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Schools have options for approaching ‘Snow Days’

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Information distribute through area broadcasters

By Ron Benningfield

Remember when you were a kid waking up on a school day after the evening weather forecast had called for a chance of snow?

More than likely, one question filled your mind as you raced to the window and pulled back the curtains to see if any of the white stuff had fallen - “Is there going to be school today?”

With our coldest and snowiest months now approaching, that question probably will be repeated many times not only by students but by their parents as well.

What’s the best way to find out?

Phil Fulkerson, LaRue County Schools’ director of transportation and maintenance, offered some options.

Look for the information on television stations including channels 3 (WAVE), 11 (WHAS), 13 (WBKO), 32 (WLKY), and 41 (WDRB); and FM radio station 98.3 (WQXE).  His goal is to have the information on all stations by 6 a.m.

The district also uses the One-Call System, which sends out a recorded phone message to the home of every student enrolled in the district, informing the listener if school will or will not be in session or delayed. 

“We also have the information posted on our Internet Web site (LaRue.k12.ky.us),” said Fulkerson. “Parents should tune in to one of these options instead of calling our office to see if there’ll be school, because they may block emergency calls in to us.”

The decision to have or not to have school begins early for Fulkerson and his staff on those days when snow is forecast.

Arising at 3 a.m., he, transportation area coordinator Ronald Whitlock, and vehicle maintenance manager Juston Milby drive over some of the more difficult roads to navigate in bad weather.

Their task is to check conditions to see if the roads will be safe or unsafe for transporting students to school.

“We have to make our call early because some of the bus drivers arrive at the bus garage by 5:45 a.m. and are on their routes before 6:30,” said Fulkerson.

The three are in radio contact with each other as they cover the roadways including Edlin and Cissell hills, two of the hardest places to traverse under icy or snowy conditions.

“We then meet at the bus garage, make our recommendation either to dismiss school or not, and call Superintendent (Sam) Sanders for his decision,” said Fulkerson.

What makes the decision so difficult, at times, is that the weather forecasts, which are closely monitored by Fulkerson, do not always turn out the way they are predicted. Plus, parts of the county can be ice covered, while other areas are simply wet or even dry.

“I remember one morning when ice covered the western half of our district while the eastern part had no freezing at all,” Fulkerson said. “Also, sometimes when we call off school, the weather suddenly warms a few degrees and by mid-morning, all the ice has melted.”

In those cases, he uses an option granted by the state, allowing a total of six hours of dismissed or delayed classes throughout the course of a school year.

“That’s actual time, so if we call off school at noon, that would be three hours against us,” he said. His usual option is to delay for one hour in the morning if conditions are expected to improve later into the morning.

“Whatever the case, we will err on the side of safety, because if even one student is injured, that’s one too many,” Fulkerson said.