XENIA — To close or not to close?
That is the question Xenia Community School District Superintendent Denny Morrison faces several times each winter when significant snowfall blankets the area. Coming up with the answer is a daunting task.
In the case of Tuesday’s cancellation, that process began Monday night as Morrison was driving home from the school board meeting.
“I knew things were not good,” he said. “I saw two cars in ditches on the way home.”
By 4:05 a.m. Morrison was out driving the roads. He said the township roads appeared to have been treated but the city roads and back roads were “not touched.”
“I slid all over the place,” he said. “I did see another car in a ditch this morning. I made the decision to cancel.”
Xenia was among the 100-plus school districts in the Dayton area to call off school.
There’s no specific checklist Morrison uses when contemplating cancellation. Safety is paramount. And on Tuesday Morrison was worried about the slick streets.
“It was the ice on the roads with a lot of high school drivers that probably have not driven in snow,” Morrison. “I would feel terrible if anything happened to a student who was driving. I take responsibility. These are my kids and I’ve got to make sure they’re safe.”
That decision has to be made earlier than most superintendents.
With more than 130 square miles of roads in its district, Xenia is the largest in Ohio in terms of area. That means there are a lot of rural roads. Because of that, buses are on the roads by 5:45 a.m.
Schools have to be cancelled or declared open by 5:30 a.m. because bus drivers are leaving their homes to pick up their buses at the garage.
“I’m pretty much out there by myself in the mornings in that other schools in Greene County don’t have buses on the road really before 6:30 a.m.,” Morrison said. Because of the extra time, other districts may be able to operate on a delay or be open.
Then there are conditions at the school that have to be factored in.
“I also have to consider, do we have our lot shoveled? Do we have our sidewalk shoveled?” Morrison said.
Another factor is the kids who walk to school.
“The sidewalks I guarantee you (weren’t) touched,” Morrison said. “We’ve got a large percentage of kids who do walk to school every day.”
And on mornings where there are cold temperatures but maybe no snow, Morrison worries about kids standing outside waiting for a bus with below zero wind chills.
“All that we take into consideration,” he said.
Morrison said it’s not an exact science and he’s not perfect.
“There’s no decision I make that gets people more upset than the decision whether to have school or cancel school,” he said. “I’m going to do what I think is right. If I’m going to make a mistake, I’m going to make a mistake of being too cautious. We can always make up a day in June when it’s sunny.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.