Schools manage to keep pace despite weather

By BOB OLIVER
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The Dearborn Public Schools has been able to keep its doors open, for the most part, during the cold weather this year, something under discussion at the Jan. 27 Board of Education meeting.

The district cancelled classes at all of its buildings Jan. 28 and 29, which were their fourth and fifth snow days that it has used.

Supt. Brian Whiston said all school districts in the state are allowed to use six snow days and any taken after that need to be made up.

“The Legislature can always decide, because this winter has been so drastically cold and snowy, to wave that rule, but we don’t know that they will do that,” Whiston said. “Right now, the law is six days and there are many districts in the state who are already beyond that process.”

Whiston said the administration has been contacted by many parents about the weather and he understands their concern regarding whether schools are to be opened and added that the administration has a set of procedures that is used to determine if buildings should be closed.

“Generally, we try to have schools open, but we try to keep our students safe and we need to make decisions based on their safety,” Whiston said. “We are constantly in contact with our staff and city officials to keep up-to-date and make sure that we have the most accurate information possible on weather, traffic, roads, parking lots and sidewalks.”

He said the district tries to make the decisions regarding school closures early enough so parents can be prepared and set up alternative plans for the children, such as to arrange day care or other parent supervision.

“Historically, the district has not made calls until 5 a.m. because it’s a several-hour process leading up to any closure,” Whiston said. “But with weather conditions being the way they’ve been recently, we are trying to call as soon as possible.”

Whiston also said parents have expressed concern that other districts are not having school but Dearborn is.

“We each have different road conditions and problems,” Whiston said. “Every district has different things that impact whether they open or close.”

Board of Trustees President Hussein Berry reminded the public that teachers and the board of education do not make the call whether there will be school.

“We as a board and several teachers have also received many phone calls from parents asking why students are in school on cold or snowy days, but there is a process that the district goes through to ensure student safety before making the call to cancel school,” Berry said. “The superintendent and school staff work together to decide what the best option is every day and they take it very seriously.”

Also at the meeting, the board authorized the district to ratify and affirm the sale of the bond associated with the $76 million SMART bond that was approved by the school district voters in November.

The bonds will be sold in two series and will officially dated Feb. 13. The first series will mature between 2016 and 2034 while the second series will mature between 2016 and 2023.

The money from the bonds will be used to make improvements district-wide in the areas of security, modifications, additions, renovations, technology and transportation.

The projects planned with the bond money are expected to begin in the spring and all of the repairs, renovations and additions are expected to be completed in 2.5 years.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)

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