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School districts weigh several factors before making decision to close

Posted at 5:04 PM, Nov 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-26 23:17:22-05

GRANDVIEW, Mo. -- As school leaders across the Kansas City metro area debate whether to open Tuesday, they're weighing several factors as they make the decision.  

On Monday morning, bus drivers and mechanics were in early getting busses cleared of snow, turned on and moving. 

In Olathe, crews with the bus services company First Student were up around 4:30 am on Monday monitoring the weather and checking on their fleet of vehicles.

“It’s my job to make the buses ready. I have a start crew that came in today and started every bus on this lot,” said coordinator Tom Grindinger. “We are making sure that we get them started, which is no small task when it’s less than 20 degrees out, and that we have the heat on.”

First Student runs almost 300 buses on a daily basis in Olathe.

While drivers do a check of every bus whenever they go out on the road, Grindinger told 41 Action News that it was also important for them to monitor road conditions when winter weather strikes.

“You don’t always know what’s going to happen up ahead,” he said. “A bus weighs more than 30,000 pounds and you can’t stop it on a dime.”

Whenever the metro deals with winter weather like it did on Sunday, Grindinger said he is in close contact with school district leaders.

“I’m talking to our transportation manager with the Olathe School District who’s working with the people above her,” he said. “I can make a recommendation to this district that takes what I recommend pretty seriously.”

Inside the Shawnee Mission School District building on Monday evening, staff were planning on how to address the weather.

Chief Communications Officer David Smith told 41 Action News that dealing with a possible snow day often involves reaching out to other districts via phone and email.

“We all have staff who live in each other’s districts. It works a lot smoother if we can make a decision that really works for all of the districts,” he said. “The more we’re able to make a collective decision for the Kansas districts the better I think we all are.” 

With each snow day decision impacting more than 30,000 students and staff in Shawnee Mission, Smith said the school district considers every factor before making a final plan.

“We have to do some estimating because we won’t know what it’s going to be like in the morning,” he said. “It’s not an exact science and I can guarantee you we will make parents angry whatever we decide.”

Across the state line

From school sidewalks and parking lots to busses and their routes, crews were hard at work Monday. Busses have been out of service for several days because of Thanksgiving break. A handful were unable to start Monday morning due to the cold. 

Three Grandview School District busses were among those that would not start Monday morning. But as of Monday afternoon, all 42 are ready to go. 

"Obviously, if busses don't start we can't have school, so we have to make sure all of our busses are ready and mechanically ready to roll in the morning," said Adam Schwartz, Director of Transportation for the Grandview School District. 

The expected low temperatures and refreezing of wet roads Monday night could determine if Grandview students get another day off Tuesday. 

"Unfortunately, we're seeing a lot of ice underneath this snow that they've plowed, so I'll go out again this afternoon and check roads and it will probably be a really early morning tomorrow morning out checking roads about 3:30, 4 o'clock in the morning," said Schwartz. 

The ice and snow mix is difficult to pre-treat. School districts on both sides of the state line said employees will drive across the district checking on main and neighborhood roads before making the call about school on Tuesday. 

Grandview School District officials also said they were not expecting this much of snow this early in the year and are hopeful school will be back in session on Tuesday.