When Louisburg Superintendent Brian Biermann canceled school due to inclement weather on Monday, Feb. 11, he didn’t make the decision while sitting behind a desk. Instead, he was sitting behind the steering wheel of a big yellow school bus.
Biermann told school board members during their Feb. 11 evening meeting that he got up early that morning and drove a school bus along routes in the district. He was specifically concerned about some of the more rural routes in the southern portion of the school district that spans a total of 156 square miles.
The procedure is nothing new for Biermann. On days when the road conditions are questionable, Biermann said he typically gets up between 3:30 and 4 a.m. so he can drive a bus and get a feel for the safety of the routes.
It was a different scenario later in the week when Biermann made the call to cancel school on the morning of Friday, Feb. 15. The roads were clear at the time following back-to-back sunny days, but the forecast of a powerful winter storm approaching that was estimated to dump several inches of snow throughout the day was too much for him to ignore.
“I didn’t worry about getting all the kids and staff to school, it was getting them home,” Biermann said.
It was the seventh snow day of the school year for Louisburg, and it’s a similar story for the other school districts in Miami County.
Biermann told the school board members that students have to go to school for a certain amount of hours each school year or else the district could lose a portion of its general state aid based on the percentage of hours it fell short.
For most students, the required number is 1,116 hours, although it’s less for seniors, Biermann said.
All of the local school districts create their school year schedules with extra days built in to varying degrees to ensure that the hourly minimum is reached, but those days are quickly being depleted.
In Louisburg, Biermann said that after Friday’s cancellation, the district can only have one more snow day before the formula he uses to calculate required hours would dip into the negative.
He told school board members that if that happens, his suggestion would be to extend school days rather than add days to the schedule. That would limit the additional expense of busing and utilities for extra days, and he believes it would limit the negative impact on families.
Biermann used an example of starting the school day 10 minutes earlier and ending it 10 minutes later. It would take 20 days of adding an extra 20 minutes to gain back one entire school day, he said.
Biermann said Friday that he would like to see how many extra days he has to make up before implementing the scheduling change. Because of that, even if the district misses more than one day during the next few weeks, he doesn’t expect to implement any changes until after spring break.
Paola Superintendent Matt Meek explained a similar situation to parents in an email he sent out Monday, Feb. 11. Meek said the district is still within its required hours even with the seven snow days, but he also acknowledged that there is a lot of winter left, and action may need to be taken if more snow days arise and the hours dip below the state requirement.
Meek’s proposed solution was similar to that of Biermann.
“If we drop below the state minimum, it would be my recommendation to the Paola USD 368 Board of Education to add time to each day to avoid having to add days,” Meek said. “However, like previously stated, this is currently not an issue.”
Osawatomie Assistant Superintendent Justin Burchett told school board members last week that the district still had about four days built into the schedule, but that was before Friday’s closing.
Spring Hill Superintendent Wayne Burke said Wednesday, Feb. 13, that the school district has at least two more snow days built into the schedule. The school district did not have to close Friday, Feb. 15, because students were already scheduled to be off that day.