When Mother Nature calls, so does Inskeep

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Photo: Preston Collins

Snow day decision making causes confusion among people in the Kettering community. [Graphic by Brittany Peckham]

Ironically, snow may be the prime reason for how students get through the harsh winter season. There is no set standard for exactly what makes the weather dangerous enough for a snow day, so confusion on when to close affects everyone in the community. Many factors and a lot of time go into whether or not to cancel or delay.

Superintendent of Kettering City schools, Scott Inskeep, has the final say on determining a snow day or delay. Weather can change fairly quickly in the winter so he must be extremely aware of what is to come. Inskeep does have some help from others in deciding the weather condition at hand.

“Ken Lackey, who is the business manager, and I get up around 3:30 to 4 a.m. in order to drive the roads,” Inskeep said. “We drive around to see how our cars do [on the snow], I take one half of the community and he takes the other half.”

Waking up in the early hours of the morning to drive around isn’t ideal for many, but if the district is getting snow for a week at a time, this morning chore becomes a routine. The will to lose sleep to ensure the protection of the students and faculty truly outlines the responsibility at hand for a Superintendent.

With that said, safety is a priority for all decisions made regarding school closings. “We have a lot of neighborhood schools, and many kids walk, especially smaller kids so be try to be cognizant of that” he said. Despite the minority of students who walk to school, road conditions are usually the main factor in the decision.

Over the years, it always seems that there isn’t a uniform standard for closing or delaying across nearby Kettering cities like Oakwood, Beavercreek, or Centerville. “The topography of each of those districts is really different and we are mostly a suburban school system,” Inskeep said. “If you look at some nearby cities, they still have some rural parts with a lot more treacherous driving areas within them.”

There are certain conditions which may only affect one district at a time. The week coming back from  the 2015-16 winter break was quite unexpected for the Centerville City schools system. After being a victim to an excess of rain, temperatures dropped immensely right before buses were going to roll out for the first time since the previous year.

Due to the inactivity of the buses, ice began to form along the bus doors rendering them unable to open. This obviously caused confusion among students from nearby districts thinking it was “unfair” that Centerville had a delay when the weather was relatively fine.

When only some districts close within a certain area, people of the districts that do not close feel like they aren’t cared for by school legislation. It is known by most in the Kettering Community that Inskeep has a Twitter account where he posts updates on district events, including snow days and delays.

In order to influence Inskeep’s decision, students have taken to Twitter to speak their minds. Due to his generic Twitter handle, @KCSFirebird1, many users think that the account is ran by somebody on his staff. “Its my personal twitter,” Inskeep said, so all tweets mentioning his twitter handle appear as notifications on his phone.

Some students tend to become quite serious and boisterous on Twitter and their tweets reflect their attitude. Although Inskeep doesn’t reply to students’ wishes, he still acknowledges and sees them. “I laugh because I actually think it’s pretty funny,” he said. “Quite frankly, some of the tweets are absolutely hilarious.”

Students can try all they want, but tweeting Inskeep isn’t going to affect his overall decision.“I think students need to be careful knowing that social media has no conscience,” he said.

The state regulates how long public schools must be in session per day and how many days per year. Due to this statute, there can only be so many snow days per year. As of now, the state of Ohio allocates five calamity days per year for each district.

If a district were to transcend those five days, then for every day missed after five, they must have an extra school day at the end of the year. “You’re expected to go a certain number of hours a day,” Inskeep said, “and we exceed those hours every day so we have started to build up some excess time.”

Surpassing the quota for calamity days hasn’t occurred in recent years so there is no first hand experience on how an extra day would affect the last week of school. For Fairmont at least, exam week would be thrown off quite a bit. If the last scheduled day of school were to be a Friday, then the extra day needed would have to be scheduled the following week. Going to school for a single day, especially at the end of the year, would not be too appealing to students and may even cause some of them to not show up do to a lack of motivation.

Many districts have been switching to an hours per year system rather than days per year because three two-hour delays is close to the equivalent of one school day, but it doesn’t count as so. This system of dealing with days off is soon coming to the Kettering City Schools agenda.

The amount of hours allowed to be missed would most likely be 35-40 per year because that is about how long five school days is. These changes are only being incorporated in order to account for delays in the morning.

Despite students having rivalries with area schools, many local districts rely on each other for certain classes or programs. “We do have relationships with other districts, like the CTC programs, and the Dayton STEM school,” Inskeep said.

Many students at Fairmont are involved in the Career Tech program and although Fairmont has a diverse amount of CTC classes, Centerville High School has a few that aren’t offered at Fairmont. If a student would like to take a CTC class offered at Centerville, they would take a bus to Centerville High School in order to participate in their program. Students from Oakwood also come to Fairmont in order to take Career Tech.

On a normal day, there are rarely any issues with getting students to where they need to be because the schedules have been fine tuned. If one school were to close or have a delay, then CTC students wouldn’t be able to go to whichever class they are involved in. In order to be sure that each student is getting all the education that is needed, CTC class schedules must be a factor in whether or not to close.

Snow days from a professional point of view involved a lot of factors in order to have the best interest for everybody in the district. From a student’s point of view, snow days are almost an entitlement and should be used leniently.

There have been multiple fender benders in intersections around Fairmont most likely ascribed to snow and inexperienced drivers. In order to prevent even worse collisions, snow days may need to be called for less severe conditions.

There are many side streets in Kettering that do not get plowed by the time school starts. This makes driving conditions even more hazardous for people of all ages, not just students. Even prime school bus routes aren’t cleared which puts students’ safety in danger.
Although attention from the community may be transient, snow days can be looked forward to by most. People may try to change his decision but Inskeep tries to not let the interest of individuals influence his decision. “Ultimately, it’s my call,” Inskeep said.