Snow days come early for Carroll school administrators

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As first grade students and their families left Kathryn Winn Primary after their Monday-evening musical production of “We are Lights,” heavy snowflakes were beginning to collect on cars in the parking lot.  The play, originally scheduled for Monday, December 13, had finally been performed after two previous cancellations due to inclement weather.
With four snow cancellations in December, schools in Carroll County have had to be both creative and patient in adjusting to the weather.
“We can’t control the weather, so we have to be flexible,” said Gerda Wise, principal of Kathryn Winn Primary, who had sent out an automated phone message through “One Call Now” over the weekend to inform parents that the school’s Christmas parties would be moved up to Monday, December 20, in case school was cancelled on Tuesday, December 21, the last day before the winter break.  
Chief Operations Officer Larry Curell leads a team during winter that keeps Superintendent Lisa James constantly informed about incoming winter storms and road conditions to make sure that students and staff can get to and from school safely.
“I always check three different weather stations at night, Channel 3 and 11 in Louisville and Channel 5 in Cincinnati,” said Curell.  “If the weather looks a little iffy, I get up around 3:00 or 3:15 a.m. to start the process.”
Curell said he begins by looking outside his home near the southwest area of the county and checking the three weather stations by 3:30 a.m.  If there’s any indication of wintry precipitation in the region, he begins examining the roads around 3:40 a.m., beginning his route down Highway 55 before calling transportation director Nadena MaHoney if the roads are slick.  MaHoney and Head Mechanic Darrin Dunn drive different sections of the county.
Curell said that they look for ice patches, especially any that are longer than the length of the bus, and turn around areas where it might be difficult for bus drivers to see the end of the road.
“Even if the roads are perfectly clear in town, there are some areas, especially Black Rock in the eastern part of the county or Hunter’s Hill in the west, that might be covered,” said Curell.
While Curell, Mahoney, and Dunn are checking roads, assistant superintendent Bill Hogan monitors the radar and weather stations.  James also calls superintendents in Trimble, Gallatin, Owen, and Henry counties to confer.
Curell calls James around 4 a.m., after conferring with Mahoney and Dunn on the road conditions that they have observed. James then decides whether cancellation is necessary to ensure student safety.
Once a decision is made, Hogan calls the television and weather stations, while James records and sends an automatic phone call through the One Call Now system.  Curell then calls Mahoney, school nutrition director Patti Burgess, and maintenance supervisor Dwayne Smith to inform the classified staff members who often leave for work as early as 5 a.m.
Curell said that with four cancellations so far, students will attend classes on the first four scheduled make-up days, which are February 21 (M), May 20 (F), May 23 (M), and May 24 (T).
“Cancelling school is always a tough call,” said James, “but student safety comes first. We’re not going to take a chance with student lives at stake.”