(SPRINGFIELD, Ky.) – With fall in full swing and winter quickly approaching, school districts across the nation are gearing up for the inevitable stint of snow days, delays and early releases. The Washington County School District prepares each school year for winter weather, this year being no exception. Director of Transportation Bob Holderman, who has been with district for seven years, admits that decisions to call off school or issue a delay are not easy to make.
On a typical day when inclement weather is anticipated, roads traveled by buses are checked starting at 3:30 a.m. “Depending on the need or severity of weather, we make a plan of how many people need to check roads, and assigns roads to be checked,” says Holderman. “We then watch multiple weather forecasts for timing and expected precipitation amounts, and follow storm tracks on radar apps to know where to focus our attention. When we check roads, we pay close attention to hills, bridges, and low-lying areas around streams and rivers. These areas are usually the first to freeze/ice over or flood in heavy rain.” Intersections, turnarounds, school parking lots and sidewalks are also checked. Discussions about road conditions begin around 4:30 a.m. By 5:00 a.m., Holderman says he discusses with WCSD Superintendent Dr. J. Robin Cochran and Assistant Superintendent Jason Simpson their findings and together form a decision. “One of the most difficult decisions I make is whether or not to have school when there is inclement weather,” says Cochran. Yes, it is a team discussion, but ultimately, I am responsible for the decision! Winter months bring many sleepless nights as the anticipation and watching generally begins the night before the event. When potential weather is forecasted, I use multiple weather apps to look at patterns and try to “guess” alongside the meteorologist as to what it will mean for Washington County. We have to remember meteorologists are wrong part of the time and that means I have to anticipate whether they will be right or wrong. I participate in several group chats with other school superintendents and I rely on them to tell me what they are seeing in their county when the precipitation is reaching them before it reaches us. Another invaluable resource is the National Weather Service and local Emergency Management Service Director, Kevin Devine. Mr. Devine is excellent about brainstorming systems with me and checking with emergency services regarding specific timing. As strange as it may seem, in Washington County we tend to have sharp turning weather patterns which means many times one end of our county [generally the northern end] may have treacherous road conditions and the other end of the county may be clear.”
In other situations, such as if inclement weather has already occurred, roads are checked in the afternoon in order to make a decision for the next day. “We work closely with state and county agencies to resolve any road issues after a weather event to return to a normal schedule,” says Holderman. “We also share photos of road conditions when we find areas of concern.” Severe weather may also start when buses will be on the road, and a judgement call has to be made beforehand. “We agree to always err on the side of caution.” Holderman says bus routes, student drivers and staff are also taken into consideration.
“Student and driver safety is always the top priority,” says Simpson. “Mr. Holderman takes this portion of his job very seriously and does a good job of keeping everyone safe.” Cochran echoed similar sentiments. “While I understand a day off from school is not ideal for working parents, safety is a number one priority. We also must remember that just because we can get everyone to school safely may mean that we will not be able to get them home if the timing of the front is forecasted for during the day. Many of the county roads are difficult to navigate even on a 65 and sunny day and if you add snow and ice to that bus route, it becomes a potentially dangerous situation. I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to thank everyone that is supportive during these decisions. For the most part, parents and community members understand that we are proactive and use caution when making the decision. We have one of the best transportation departments in the state and Bob Holderman works tirelessly to help ‘get it right’. As we all know, it is not a perfect science and sometimes it will be the wrong call. However, I just cannot apologize for keeping the students and staff safe by making the best decision I can with the information I have at that moment in time. If it means that there may be a day when we are home and the roads are perfect because the weather pattern shifted, then I will still count my blessing and thank God for ending my day with all my students and staff safe.”
REMINDER: In the event of inclement weather, we announce closing/delay info on the following:
District Website (https://washington.kyschools.us/)
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