Decision to close schools due to winter storms involves sizing up many variables

As Butler County is declared a Level 1 Snow Emergency Thursday, area school superintendents say their decisions to evaluate winter storms and call for school closings are among the most serious judgment calls they make. Many of Butler County's more rural school systems have two-lane, country roads like this one pictured during a 2021 snow storm. (File Photo\Journal-News)

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As Butler County is declared a Level 1 Snow Emergency Thursday, area school superintendents say their decisions to evaluate winter storms and call for school closings are among the most serious judgment calls they make. Many of Butler County's more rural school systems have two-lane, country roads like this one pictured during a 2021 snow storm. (File Photo\Journal-News)

The biggest storm of this winter season has slammed our region with ice, sleet and snow that was on local school officials’ radars days in advance.

With the responsibility for both the education and safety of tens of thousands of area students, the decision whether to close down schools in potentially dangerous winter conditions is one of the gravest for area district superintendents.

Talawanda Schools were the first in Butler County on Wednesday to announce their classes would be closed.

Soon after, other area districts made the same call in cancelling school today.

This morning Butler County was declared to be in a Level 1 Snow Emergency by the Sheriff’s office, meaning drivers are asked to proceed with caution and allow additional travel time.

“Ice has covered the roadways and bridges and is continuing to accumulate,” states the announcement from the Butler County Sheriff’s office.

ExploreButler County under Level 1 snow emergency declaration

Edgewood Schools’ Russ Fussnecker is the most veteran of Butler County superintendents and he said any decision to call off classes due to winter storms involves sizing up many variables.

“Our biggest concern is for the safety of our students and staff so we keep in mind our youngest of drivers, our families on the roads, and our staff,” said Fussnecker.

“We know that our students need to be at school but there are times that are not possible based on the weather and we have to adjust according to those closures or delays,” he said.

Edgewood, like some other largely rural school systems in Butler County, has miles of two-lane, country roads that can quickly turn dangerous during wintery conditions.

“We have individuals who go out and drive our roads and evaluate the conditions. Then we are in contact with one another and we go on from there. Of course, if the county issues a snow emergency that would trump any decisions we make for closures,” said Fussnecker.

It’s a strategy repeated across the region whenever hazardous winter weather arises.

Though the current ice storm was one of the easier ones to forecast and predict school closings because of its severity and wide geographic swath of impact throughout Ohio and the Midwest, other snow day decisions can be more of a judgment call.

And that decision often comes after superintendents and their district’s bus transportation officials after 3 a.m. on a school day.

School officials say they are mindful of the need of school families to have the earliest of notice so they can adjust their daily schedules for school-age children staying home.

“Our supervisor of transportation, business manager, public relations director, and I keep in contact with one another and determine designated check-in times to monitor the weather. As a team, we monitor the changing forecast and plan accordingly.

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