BCS shares plans, information about weather delays and closures
With tonight’s weather forecast, administrators at Ballard County Schools again are discussing plans for bad weather.
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. Banners are placed on the district’s webpage at www.ballard.kyschools.us as soon as possible, and the closing is posted on the district Facebook page.
BCS also uses an automated messaging service, through its Infinite Campus student data service, that allows it to contact all families within minutes. “We can send these notifications even when school phone lines are not operational,” Dr. Allen said. However, schools must have updated phone numbers and email addresses for the service to work effectively and efficiently.
The district always advises local media outlets of any schedule changes. Parents may check district sources online; WPSD Local 6 or KFVS 12 on television; WKYQ-FM (93.3)/WDDJ (96.9) on the radio; or their related websites, and/or www.westkentuckystar.com for any delays, closings or dismissals.
Since the district used its two banked time days due to high flu infections in early November, all additional closings will be treated as NTI days, per the 2022-23 district calendar. “Teachers will have informed students on their procedures for NTI days,” said Leslee Davis, director of pupil personnel. “Students should be sure and take home their Chromebooks and chargers when bad weather is expected, and follow their teachers’ protocols for non-traditional instruction.”
It's important to note that unless there is enough student participation in NTI, the days will not count toward instruction, and still will have to be made up at the end of the year. “The state sets those percentages, but we won’t know whether we’ve met them until the end of the day,” Davis continued. “I’d hate for us to have to extend our calendar later into May, when we have the NTI capabilities at our fingertips.”
If students have any questions about NTI procedures, they may email their building principals.
How the decisions to close or delay are made:
Dr. 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,” Dr. 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, 7:57 at Ballard County Middle, and 7:46 a.m. at Ballard County Elementary) also would be pushed forward two hours to 10, 9:57 and 9:46, 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 Dr. 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.
Dr. Allen, Davis, and Transportation Director Darrell Sullivan reach the final decision. When bad weather arrives, they take to the highways themselves. “If there is snow or sleet, road conditions are personally checked by more than one person,” Dr. Allen said. Sullivan said bus drivers weigh in, too, on whether they think their routes are safe.
Dr. 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 National Weather Service, and Ballard County Sheriff and Emergency Management offices.
“We also have to take the human factor into consideration,” Davis 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.