BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Since Clarkston Community Schools already canceled one day last month due to wintry weather, Superintendent Shawn Ryan wants everyone to know what goes in to turning a normal day into a snow day.
“It’s no understatement to say that Michigan winters can be unpredictable,” Ryan said. “A snow day begins and ends with one question: Can students be safely transported to school? In a school district of our size, the impact of severe weather can reverberate for days. Whereas you or I might be able to venture out with relative ease in a car, it’s another story for a school bus. Snow or ice-covered roads and frequent stops present a major challenge.”
The Clarkston Transportation Department takes care of about 4,000 students, operates 48 school buses and 30 scheduled shuttles from building to building, and travels more than 4,000 miles each school day within the 58-square-mile school boundary. In addition, more than 850 relatively inexperienced student drivers from across the district make their way to the high school each morning.
“If there is serious doubt as to whether we can safely complete our bus routes, we will always err on the side of caution and close school,” said Ryan. “The decision is based not only on our transportation director’s 4 a.m. assessment of district roads, but also up-to-the-minute reports from the Road Commission for Oakland County and a meteorologist, who provides a forecast for the entire day. We also check in with our operations team to ensure our buildings are in good working order and parking lots and campuses are cleared.”
Ryan noted a decision to close school or open the doors is usually made by 5 a.m.
“Of course, it is our absolute hope we will be able to run the school day as usual, so often times, we check and check again before making a final call,” Ryan said. “When a decision is made to close school for the day, I could sing a song, but for the most part, I’ll stick to tweeting it out (Ryan is on Twitter at @SPRyan1972). Then, I’ll deploy our communications team to broadcast the closing on the TV news stations, on the district website and social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), and by phone calls, emails, and texts.
“We will make a call on afternoon and evening activities by noon of that day, since sometimes conditions improve drastically throughout the course of the day.”
At the end of the day, Ryan said safety is the top priority for everyone in the district.
“Though winter weather events are out of our control, we do have control in the way we respond to them, and I promise I will always make decisions that support a safe and positive learning environment for our students and staff,” said Ryan.