With a flip of the calendar and a dip in the thermometer, administrators at Ballard County Schools are discussing plans for any bad weather this winter.
As soon as a decision to close or delay school is made, the district has several pathways for letting parents and the public know, Superintendent Casey Allen said. The district always advises local media outlets of any schedule changes. Banners are placed on this webpage as soon as possible. Parents also are welcome to check the Ballard County Schools page on Facebook, WPSD Local 6 or KFVS 12 on television; WKYQ-FM (93.3)/WDDJ (96.9), their related websites, and/or www.westkentuckystar.com for any delays, closings or dismissals.
Ballard County Schools also uses an automated messaging service, One Call Now, that allows it to contact all families within minutes. “We can send these notifications even when school phone lines are not operational,” Allen said. However, schools must have updated phone numbers and email addresses for One Call Now to work effectively and efficiently.
In order to receive these notifications, the most important thing parents can do is verify the accuracy of their contact information as it is found in the district’s student data system, Infinite Campus. The One Call Now system will call any phone number the family chooses (home, work or cell).
All parents with internet access are asked to log onto the IC parent portal, which may be found via the “For Parents” link on the left side of the district website (www.ballard.kyschools.us). Parents who do not already have access to their child’s Infinite Campus information are asked to please contact IC Administrator Jennifer Robinson via email at email@example.com, or by calling 270-665-8400, ext. 2003.
Parents without internet access are asked to please call their school at 270-665-8400 (ext. 2100 for preschool, 2200 for elementary, 2300 for middle and 2500 for high school), during regular school hours to verify their information. One Call Now keeps all information confidential and secure. All data is password-protected on secure servers accessible only by school administration.
How the decisions to close are made:
Allen said that any time severe weather conditions threaten, decisions become more difficult. “Sometimes, it’s an easy decision. If we’ve got freezing temperatures and major snow or sleet before 10 p.m., and the temperature isn’t changing, that’s simple.”
In the event of a late-night or early-morning weather event, things get a little tougher. “District administrators get up early to check the roads and the campus again to make sure we have made the best decision for our students,” Allen said. “If we can go, we go. If we feel that it is unsafe to have school, we wait to cancel it at that time.”
The district also has other options for those changing conditions. If the forecast calls for warmer temperatures or other mitigating factors, sometimes schools will run on a delayed schedule. For example, if the decision is for a two-hour delay to the start of a day, a bus pick-up that normally comes at 6:20 would be made at 8:20. School start times (8 a.m. at Ballard Memorial High, 7:55 a.m. at Ballard County Elementary and 7:50 at Ballard County Middle) also would be pushed forward two hours to 10, 9:55 and 9:50, respectively, he said. School would end at the regular times (2:55/3 p.m.).
Later-day weather can sometimes result in an early dismissal, and Allen said every effort is made to give parents as much time as possible to make arrangements for early afternoon arrivals of their children. However, he reminded parents that any time school is closed due to weather, both Stop ‘n’ Go and ASK district daycare centers also are closed. If schools are closed more than one day, the daycares will combine and open if possible at Ballard County Elementary School after evaluating roads to see if they are safe for personal vehicles. Parents are asked to please call 270-665-8400, ext. 2265, for updated recordings about daycare status.
Allen, Transportation Director Darrell Sullivan and Director of Pupil Personnel Bob Wilson form the final decision. When bad weather arrives, these three take to the highways themselves. “If there is snow or sleet, road conditions are personally checked by more than one person,” Allen said. Sullivan said bus drivers weigh in, too, on whether they think their routes are safe.
Allen stays in contact with administrators in other school districts in the path of forecast weather, even as far away as Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. There are regular road condition updates from the Missouri, Kentucky and Ballard County road departments, as well as coordination with the Ballard County Sheriff and Emergency Management offices.
“We also have to take the human factor into consideration,” Wilson said. “We try to think about the abilities of our student drivers and what conditions our employees in surrounding areas might face if they’re coming to work.” The safety of parents who drive their children to school also is discussed, as well as what effect the final decision will have on ancillary parental responsibilities, like work and daycare, he said.
As part of the board-approved school calendar for 2017-18, the following schedule was approved for weather make-up days:
Weather make-up days: First weather day will use banked time, no make-up for students; second day, last day for students will be increased to a full day of instruction; third day, Feb. 19; fourth day, March 16; fifth day, May 18; sixth day, May 21; seventh day, May 22; eighth day, May 23; ninth day, May 24; 10th day; May 25; 11th day, May 29; 12th day, May 30; 13th day, May 31; 14th day, March 30 of spring break; 15th day, April 2 of spring break; 16th day, April 3 of spring break; 17th day, April 4; 18th day, April 5 of spring break.
*If weather days occur after designated make-up days, those days automatically roll down to the next available make-up day (i.e., if the third weather day occurs after Feb. 19, Mar. 16 will be the third make-up day, etc.).