New Castle News

Local News

February 5, 2011

Two-hour delays, closing school a tough call

NEW CASTLE — Shenango Area School District Superintendent Eugene Thomas has his own method of determining what weather conditions are like.

He takes a drive.

At 3 a.m. Wednesday, Thomas navigated icy sidewalks and driveway to get to his vehicle. Then he traveled on roads in the township to help decide whether classes should be canceled or delayed that day. Students didn’t get a break but school had been canceled the day before.

For all school administrators across Lawrence County, the bottom line this time of year is students’ safety.

In the past, area radio and television stations were parents’ and students’ best friends. Now automated phone systems and computers are the turn-to implements for relaying and receiving the latest information.

“Any delay or cancellation is not popular because families have to consider getting child care and we lose instructional time,” said Thomas. “This is one of the most important decisions superintendents make during winter weather and we need to consider the safety of the kids.”

Snow and cold temperatures have been a common theme this winter.

The proliferation of two-hour days is occurring “because it’s an opportunity to allow road crews to get out in the morning and to get our buses running,” said George Gabriel, superintendent of the New Castle Area School District.

Administrators say they must consider busing routes and single digit temperatures for those who do wait for a bus or walk to school.

“It’s not a healthy situation,” said Gabriel, who recalled having to walk to school.

He added that, “It’s a different generation now with different situations and society has changed.”

Gabriel said he is aware that two-hour delays can cause problems to families and is sympathetic to those issues, “but nothing is 100 percent foolproof and we need to question what is the best scenario and what is safe.”

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