Safety is primary concern

With school cancellations every day so far this week, Wapakoneta City Schools are feeling the effects of the bitter cold.

“Closing school due to low temperatures is relatively rare, and this week has obviously been an extreme case,” said Keith Horner, Superintendent of Wapakoneta City Schools.

Horner said there are several factors they keep in mind when it comes to determining whether or not to close school based on the temperature.

Things such as wind chill, icy roads, potential transportation issues, speed of the wind and the projected forecast for that day are all elements that are considered before making the decision.

“Our biggest fear is, say a student loses control and would go off the road, or if a student would miss the bus and they could be standing there with no place to get warm,” Horner said. “These are some of the things we think about when we make these decisions.”

Mike Watt, Director of Operations for Wapakoneta City Schools, said that the decision making process is mainly a judgement call.

“A lot of it is common sense,” Watt said. “Sometimes we try to make the call based on what we judge as best to ensure the safety of the kids and the parents who have to bring them in.”

Watt said that on days where a delay or cancellation is possible, he gets up around 4:30 a.m. to do road checks. He then makes the call to Horner and tells him what he thinks they should do. They’ll each voice any concerns or questions, and then a final decision is made.

In this case, the decision to cancel classes this week was made the night before.

Watt said he and Horner were paying close attention to the forecast, and as the temperature started dropping to the point where it was predicted to be, they knew they had to cancel school.

“It’s easier for the students and parents to plan if we can notify them in advance instead of the morning, that way it’s not a last minute thing,” he said. “We always try to give them as much notice as possible.”

After the decision is made, Watt will contact the transportation office so they can notify drivers of the cancellation or delay. He said that by contract, he must notify drivers by 5:30 a.m.

From that point, he will update One Call, which is an automated calling system, as well as contact radio and TV stations. There is also a text system that people can sign up for.