How do JCPS officials determine whether or not to cancel school?

Four major factors are considered when deciding whether to cancel or delay school

By Toni Konz Tatman | JCPS Communications 

transportation director driving around neighborhoods in vehicle looking at road conditions in snow

Cold and snowy weather can bring a lot of challenges when it comes to determining whether or not to call off or delay school in Jefferson County Public Schools.

"It's a difficult time of year when it comes to weather and making sure we are consistent," says JCPS Acting Superintendent Marty Pollio. "I want to thank our operations team. We have a lot of people work throughout the night in every one of these instances to make sure we make the right decision for the safety of our children."

But just how does JCPS make the determination on whether or not to cancel, delay, or dismiss school early?

VIDEO | JCPS Snow Day Decisions

On Tuesday afternoon, we rode along with the district's transportation director, Randy Frantz, as he surveyed roads and subdivisions near Iroquois Park.

"The four big factors are the time, the accumulation, the future forecast, and the temperature," Frantz says, adding that there isn't a magic number or scenario to determine what cancels or delays school. "And while we use these factors as our guide, student safety is always considered first." 

snow covered school buses in a parking lot

Anytime a decision has to be made, about 20 of the district's transportation coordinators and supervisors go out to inspect predetermined routes—sometimes as early as 3 a.m.

"Our drivers are used to the roads; they know which areas tend to be problematic," he said. "We transport 70,000 children to and from school each day. We have 24,000 bus stops scattered across the city. That's the importance of having our managers and coordinators out there driving those roads for a formal report so that we know every area within the city—the good, the bad, and the ugly."

And while transportation staff are out inspecting roads, hundreds of maintenance supervisors and employees are visiting the district's 155 schools, making sure that electricity is running and that there are no problems with the heating system.

"They are also clearing the pavement and sidewalks and monitoring the water because with cold temperatures, it's very common for pipes to freeze," said Mike Raisor, the district's chief operations officer.

When officials are unable to make the call at night, the goal is to have a decision made by 5 a.m.

"We typically have a final report around 4 a.m. on the conditions of the streets," Frantz said. "And that's when the call to Dr. Raisor and Dr. Pollio is made."

Pollio says he trusts the district's operations staff who provide him with a recommendation.

"They are the ones who are out on the roads and in our buildings," Pollio said. "They are also the ones who are talking to the National Weather Service. It's always a challenging call; it's always difficult to make that right decision. But safety is always our number one concern."

Frantz adds that when the interstates and main roads are mostly clear, it can be misleading to parents and the community.

"The majority of our children don't live on the main roads," he said. "Many times, the main roads may be clear, but the side roads and subdivisions can be icy. In addition, often times the storms follow the river or the interstate line, so while we may not have a problem in the east end, we will have problems in the west end or vice versa."

Frantz says staying in touch with city officials is also very important during challenging weather situations.

"I'd like to thank Jody Meiman and Louisville Metro Emergency Services for their support," he said. "We talk a lot this time of year and we couldn't do our job ensuring student safety without the city's help and support."

For many of the district's drivers, winter weather is just another variable to their daily job, Frantz said. 

"We have 1,000 community heroes on the road each and every day," he said. "But when you have snow on top of ice, driving a bus gets very difficult. Driving during inclement weather does add another layer of complexity."

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