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Prairie City News

Making the call

How PCM 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.

“The decision is based on weather conditions, forecasts, road conditions, etc. Weather that would negatively impact the safety and well-being of students, staff and others,” PCM Superintendent Brad Jermeland said. “The weather forecast and road conditions are the main factors when making the decision to delay or cancel school. We tend to use -25 degrees with windchill as a guideline for temperature.”

Along with keeping up with the weather forecast himself, Jermeland is in contact with transportation director Jeff Shannon who is also checking roads, temperatures and the condition of the buses to make sure they are working properly. He said he is also in groups with metro superintendents and area superintendents to communicate with each other when making decisions about school closings or delays.

“The last thing we would want would be for a bus to breakdown during a weather event,” Jermeland said. “This week we have been concerned about roads blowing shut, icy conditions and temperatures that would cause a bus to gel up.”

Often times, the decision to cancel or delay school is obvious, Jermeland said. If the decision is straight forward he tries to make the call the evening before.

“Typically, if the forecast isn't as clear or the weather conditions aren't dire I will call a school delay. By calling a delay, we are better able to re-evaluate the conditions in the morning,” Jermeland said. “We typically start the process around 4:30 to 5 a.m. If the conditions warrant it, we will cancel school.”

During extreme weather events, the school gets updates from the National Weather Service and Jermeland also watches and listens to the local news channels. He said radio stations often give the fastest updates on road conditions due to many of the listeners calling in and giving up to the minute accounts.

“I am in close contact with office staff when the decision is made to delay or cancel school,” Jermeland said. “They are the staff members that put out the online notifications and contact the television and radio stations.”

With PCM consisting of two communities with students traveling from one town to another and from rural areas of the district, managing the circumstances is different than the more urban districts. The ability to even reach roads also becomes a factor during winter weather occurrences.

“Our school district covers a lot of square miles,” Jermeland said. “We are reliant on IDOT, Jasper County, Marion County and Polk County road crews to plow and maintain the roads for safe passage. It is difficult to navigate some of our rural roads if we have received a lot of snow and/or ice. Right now we are dealing with drifting roads due to the ditches being full of snow and icy conditions due to the packed snow on the gravel roads.”

Jermeland said the district is currently working on options to make up the hours missed because of the snow days. He said he will talk with the school board to make the final decision.

Although delaying or canceling school is a disruption in normal activity, the district has one main priority for keeping everyone at home.

“The number one priority is student, staff and parent safety when canceling or delaying school due to weather,” Jermeland said.

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

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