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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


Though frigid temperatures and blustery winds last week caused school cancellations and delays across much of Northeast Iowa, classes went on as scheduled at Central Community Schools, Elkader.

“All of our buses were running, including our back-up buses,” said Central superintendent Nick Trenkamp, who added that waiting two hours for the mercury to inch up by 5 degrees is not always the safest bet. “Travelers not used to seeing buses on their commutes don’t necessarily understand the laws regarding school buses As our transportation director has shared, when these laws are broken they aren’t usually accidents, they’re fatalities.”

Several hours of classroom time were lost last January to snow and ice. In response to inquiries at that time about the school closure decision-making process, Trenkamp shared these points, which are still followed.

 Northeast Iowa schools get excellent support and updates from the National Weather Station in Lacrosse. I also like to use the app Weatherbug, which is based at the MFL Mar-Mac High School building in Monona.

Area school superintendents, other administrators, and transportation directors from around the area are out traveling roads as early as 3:30 a.m. Our phones go crazy between 5 and 6 a.m. as we compare conditions across our districts.  We are also in contact with our county and state road crews as well as our bus drivers. 

After traveling roads and consulting with the group, I make the best possible decision with the information I have at that time.  Once that decision is made, I call Mr. Yanda and he notifies the radio station while I send out information on School Messenger and head back to the office so I can get on my computer to notify our local news stations.

 We always try to have our decisions made by 6 a.m. or 6:30 a.m. the absolute latest.  (Winter weather changes rapidly so sometimes a decision made at 6:30 a.m. gets changed.)

Most snow, ice, and fog conditions you will find Central is relatively the same as our neighboring districts.  One area which I fully admit I am different in making weather calls is cold weather.  I am told each school day in Iowa approximately 300 people break the law by driving through a stopped school bus, and these are regular school days.  My wife who drives an hour to work in the morning knows exactly where she meets a bus each day.  By going 2 hours late for cold weather, I now put those busses out where travelers at that time are not used to seeing a bus on their route.  I feel this is an added danger as these people are many times not aware of the laws regarding busses on the roadways.  Also, in most cases the weather only warms up a degree or two in this two hour span.  Does that degree or two justify putting busses on the road where travelers are not used to seeing them and putting working parents in a position where they need to find coverage for their kids for two hours?  Obviously I do not believe it does.  Some of my neighbors do and each school district is different with amount of walkers and distance they walk to school, stops, etc. so I respect their decision.  

Lastly I’ll end with stating guardians always have the final say.  It is impossible for my transportation director (who is also shared with Ed-Co) and I to travel every single road before making a weather call.  If you feel your area is unsafe to put your child on a bus or send your teenage driver to school, then please don’t!  All we ask is that you call the school and let us know and we will respect and support your decision. 


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