Delay or Cancel?

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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


Sub-zero temps, high winds and snow last week caused school delays and cancellations across the state, including Elkader where Central Schools had two late starts and one cancellation.

The decision to delay or cancel isn’t made lightly. Central Superintendent Nick Trenkamp, who has the final word on the matter, begins by checking area weather conditions with other superintendents. He also consults with Central’s middle school/high school principal Dan Yanda and Central transportation director Jeff Harbaugh, who is responsible for the busses and bus drivers. Discussions are held in the early-morning hours so that a timely decision can be made.

“Our drivers arrive at the bus garage an hour and 45 minutes before the school start time (which is 8:45) so we try to make the call with at least a two-hour notice,” Trenkamp said.

Several forms of communication are used to notify teachers, staff and parents. The most popular is a notification system called “School Reach.”

“It’s an app on my phone so I can send the notice (to other mobile devices) pretty much anytime and anywhere,” Trenkamp said, “which is nice as I will often make a decision while I’m out checking roads. Instead of having to drive back to the office and report to local news outlets, I can pull off to the side and send something as soon as I make the decision. Once I get back to the office, I let the TV stations know and Mr. Yanda calls the radio station while Mr. Harbaugh calls all the bus drivers.”

In the midst of an extreme weather event, the decision to cancel classes is easily made. If a system has already moved through or is still building, a late start might be a better choice.

“Ultimately, we look at safety,” Trenkamp said. “Is it safe to go out at all? Would it be safer in a couple of hours? These are the conversations we are having as we try to make the best decision for the safety of our kids.”

Trenkamp added that even after a late-start call is made, he and others continually assess weather conditions. Late starts have turned into “no school” days.

If there’s a silver lining to calling off classes, this is it: Central’s new calendar has built in make-up days. Previously, days were tacked on to the end of the school year. The new calendar allows days missed in that quarter to be made up in the same quarter. For example, school was closed Wednesday, January 7. The make-up day will Wednesday, January 14.

The Central community has always been supportive of weather-related decisions, which makes Trenkamp’s job easier.

“Our job is to educate our students as long as we can get them here safely,” he said. “That’s something I will always try to do.”

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