How The Area's Biggest School Districts Decide When To Cancel Classes

Wednesday, November 29th 2006, 10:25 am
By: News On 6

The question almost every child is asking, will this nasty weather close area schools? News on 6 anchor Tami Marler went to find out what all goes into the decision.

A group of Tulsa Public School employees bear the brunt of the public's concerns and questions all year-round. They field as many as 400 calls a day, even more during bad weather. This call concerns an accident involving a school bus; it's projected on the wall so everyone can answer any question that comes in.

"Contrary to popular belief we have less accidents during inclement weather than we have when the sun's shining." Ottway Burkhalter says his drivers are always cautious as they transport more than 14,000 students every day, but their record during bad weather is especially good. "Drivers are more conscious. They're real focused on what they're doing and they're real cautious."

Still, there are days when even the best drivers can't get kids to school, that's when the district's inclement weather plan kicks-in.

Starting in a special room and ending on the streets. "Three o'clock in the morning we have at least eight supervisors who'll go out and scan the areas. And check for traffic conditions and then they'll call their route operations manager and report their findings."

Safety is a top concern at Union Public Schools as well. In fact, all of the districts work together, to make sure all bus-riding students are safe. "It's one of the goals that we try to do is make sure we're all on the same page." Gary Greenhill says he and his staff have been planning for this cold snap for days. "To be honest with you since the news started forecasting it over the weekend we started to look at it on a daily basis."

Union's supervisors head out at 4:30 in the morning, to make sure the roads are safe for children. "If you want a transportation director's nightmare its wake up and there's a foot of snow and we didn't go out and look."

Unless it's glaringly obvious that buses won't be able to travel safely, school districts typically wait until that morning run, to decide whether to close schools. They say most area districts tend to follow Tulsa's lead.