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Jasper County Tribune

Making the call

How Baxter Community School District decides weather cancellations

The measurable snowfall and subzero temperatures were not only enough to keep the United State Postal Service sidelined but also kept students out of the classroom for several days the past two weeks. School administration is beginning to work on a plan to make up the snow and cold days and explain how the decision is made to keep students at home.

“If the roads are unsafe or if the weather is very cold we will delay or cancel,” Baxter superintendent Mickolyn Clapper said. “We talk with our transportation director and our bus drivers to help make a decision.”

Clapper said she also has contacts throughout the district she consults about closing the school along with driving the roads herself to see how they are.

If possible, she said the district tries to make the decision the night before to give families time to make arrangements for the students. Should weather arise later, she said the district will always try to make a decision by 6 a.m.

Often, the school day may start out as a delay and change to a cancellation later. Clapper said they determine the change based on the conditions and if they aren’t going to improve. She also consults with the bus drivers and if they think it’s not going to get better, school is canceled.

“It’s really a judgment call. There’s not an exact system we use to make the decision,” Clapper said. “We always error on the side of caution. We have teenage drivers and that means they have less experience with winter driving. I collaborate with several local superintendents and we try to make the best decision possible.”

Clapper is not alone in making the decision. With the help of the transportation director, bus drivers and the administrative team, several voices are heard before a decision is made.

“We have people on that team that live in the district and some that live outside the district so I can get a wider base of knowledge for our decision making,” Clapper said. “We have a lot of students who open enroll into Baxter and knowing this, I need to consider where those students are driving from because their safety is also very important.”

Being a rural district, taking county roads along with those who open enroll play a factor in the decision making. Clapper said county roads can drift pretty easily and are always considered when making the call.

To make up the missed days, Clapper said the district will either add them to the end of the school year, which is currently scheduled to conclude May 23, or potentially add minutes to the school day to make up some of the time.

By canceling school, Clapper’s main hope is for students and staff to stay safe.

“(We want everyone to) stay safe and don’t have to travel in dangerous conditions,” Clapper said.

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com.

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