Friday, December 10, 2004

Preparation prevents school snow day closing

Express Staff Writer

Despite dominating walls of snow piled throughout the county, classes continued as usual at Blaine County District Schools.

"The snow has been a challenge. The problem this week, has been when the snow falls ... all things considered it went very well. This is a lot of snow for the first fall of the year," Rex Squires, Blaine County School District transportation director, said.

Early in the morning after significant snow, Squires evaluates the condition of the roads and makes an initial recommendation to Superintendent Jim Lewis. Squires bases his evaluation of the road conditions on county and state reports.

"In the morning I contact the Blaine County Road and Bridge Department, then, if necessary, I contact the state to see how the highways are. If they are able to keep the roads open then we have school," Squires explained.

On occasion, the decision to hold school differs for schools in the county. The weather in Carey varies from that in the Wood river Valley, forcing different school closures.

"The challenge is that the county is very diverse," Squires said.

One thing remains constant throughout the district. Snow days are scarce.

"If we have more than one or two snow days a year, on average, it's really surprising," Squires said.

Cathy Zaccardi, clerk of the Blaine County School Board, recalls less than five snow days in the last five years.

The preparation of road crews throughout Blaine County, coupled with the stability of school buses, enables schools to hold classes despite heavy snowfall.

"Buses are really pretty stable on the snow and ice conditions...We do occasionally have buses that get stuck, but it is rare and few and far between," Squires said.

According to Squires, the district equips buses with all season tires that have a large tread and good traction. The district also integrates precautions for snow driving into the training given to all of the new bus drivers.

In the event the roads cannot be maintained, the district cancels school. Once school is canceled, the district posts the notice on the district web site and contacts KECH radio and KMVT-TV stations.

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