OKLAHOMA CITY – Tuesday afternoon, the sun was shining and many streets looked clear of snow and ice.
However, school officials say that was not the case for many buses.
“This morning, 40 percent of our bus routes were impassable,” said, Susan Parks- Schlepp, spokesperson for the Edmond Public School District. “Ice was on them. They were skating rinks.”
Parks-Schlepp said the safety of their 8,000 students who ride buses to and from school each day is their top priority.
While there is still ice on neighborhood roads and side streets, they will not put a third of their student body at risk.
She said, “If a student were to run out in front of a bus, our bus drivers would not be able to hit the brakes and stop in time.”
Rod McKinley, the chief human resources officer with Oklahoma City, agrees.
“Driving on the main roads, no problem,” he said. “But our kids live on back streets, so we’re just not going to do that to put the kids at risk.”
McKinley said it would be unreasonable to ask their 10,000 bus-riding students to walk to school or ask their families to drive.
Like Edmond, they will check roads before dawn, if necessary.
Some of a district’s funding depends on their attendance but we’re told enrollment numbers are given to the state in October.
Now, there is no financial incentive to protect attendance numbers from bad weather.
“No, it is not a funding issue whatsoever,” McKinley said. “The decision we make on whether or not to close a school because of snow or hazardous roads has nothing to do with attendance, has nothing to do with finances. It’s all about the safety of our children.”
The Oklahoma State Department of Education says snow days do not figure into the A-F grading system, when it comes to attendance.
Districts like Edmond and Oklahoma City have several snow days built in to their school year just by adding 20 minutes a day to class time.