Students in the Union School District can expect to be in school at least until the Thursday after the Memorial Day holiday, or May 29, according to Steve Bryant, district superintendent.
Thursday, Jan. 9, marked the fifth snow day for students in the district. In addition to the snow days Monday through Thursday, Jan 6-9, students also were off Dec. 6 for snow.
The calendar extension includes cutting one day from spring break, March 18.
Students will now have off March 14 and 17, however, staff will have professional development March 14.
“We always look at the side of safety (when determining whether or not to cancel school),” Bryant said. “We know we need to be back in school, but it’s a delicate balance. It’s not an exact science.”
According to Missouri statute, students are required to make up the first six snow days. After that, they’re required to make up half of the canceled days, or one makeup day per two snow days.
Bryant said the decision to cancel school is “quite involved” and includes looking at road conditions and temperatures, as well as several other factors.
“This has definitely been a tough snow for all entities,” Bryant said. “It’s one of those 30-year experiences.”
The snow Sunday came early enough that calling school off Monday was a “no brainer.” Tuesday also was an easy call.
“When you coupled the road conditions with temperatures, we had adverse conditions Tuesday morning,” Bryant said.
After that, the decision became more difficult. Road conditions were still poor Tuesday, which led to cancellation Wednesday.
To help make the decision, Bryant said he talks with neighboring districts to see what their roads are like.
“I typically call Rolla (School District), because our weather fronts come up the Interstate-44 corridor,” Bryant said.
Calling Rolla allowed the district to get a half day in earlier in the year, he added.
Additionally, he and several others drive through sections of the district to see if it’s safe for buses and at bus stops.
While state and county roads were cleared Wednesday, city streets were still snow packed Wednesday evening. A phone blast to parents went out close to 7 p.m. that school would again be canceled Thursday.
Bryant recognized that the cancelation came a little late, but “we kept trying to see if it was going to be OK to run (Thursday) morning, had we not gotten more snow.
“When you have good temperatures going on, the thawing process goes on even after dark. When you have optimal temperatures and sunlight, chemical treatments — a lot can happen in two to three hours,” he said.
He noted that each bus goes up Autumn Hill, which can be difficult in the snow.
During winter storms, Bryant said he keeps in contact with the bus company and with building maintenance crews.
“Our guys come in and start trying to get parking lots and entrances cleared,” he said. “(The decision to cancel school is) a pretty detailed process involving a lot of people.”
Another factor that plays into school cancellation is how far into winter the snow is.
People are more accustomed to snow and ice later in the winter season. Sometimes, students are able to go to school on days they wouldn’t have earlier in the year simply because they’re acclimated to the weather, he said.
Bryant said that in driving around, he didn’t see anyone sledding on district property.
“We didn’t witness anyone, but we could tell that there had been a couple of people out there,” he said. “There was some, but it was limited.”
In December, Bryant advised residents that after a safety review and risk assessment of the district’s premises, the insurance company had advised to restrict sledding because of liability issues.
Signs will be placed at hillsides notifying people that sledding is no longer allowed, however, they haven’t yet been installed.
Bryant said that the district has been lenient on enforcing the new rule because the signs have not yet been placed.