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Snow, ice change school calendars

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By Bryan Marshall

Class cancellations have altered calendars slightly for Grant County and Williamstown Independent school districts.
Both districts currently have plans to tack on makeup days to the end of the calendar.
Grant County Schools have missed three days, two for inclement weather and one for a power outage.
The makeup days switch the last day for students from Tuesday, May 14 to Friday, May 17, pending any more cancellations.
Williamstown Independent has only had one missed day due to snow.
Its final day for students has been pushed back a day to May 23.
Scott Shipp, director of operations for Grant County Schools, said he is constantly watching the forecast during the winter.
If a forecast calls for bad weather, Shipp usually heads out at 3 a.m. to drive the roads in the north end of the county while a vehicle manager examines the southern roads.
“If we are in a position where inclement weather is not going to start until around 5 or 6 a.m., we could call a delay of one to two hours to give us time to make a decision,” Shipp said. “Also, we talk with surrounding counties on what they are doing for their county.”
Once his evaluation is complete, Shipp said he will pass the information along to Superintendent Ron Livingood, who makes the final decision about closing school.
Grant County Schools average about seven snow days a year, said Shipp.
“Safety is our number one priority and that will always be our decision maker,” he said.
Ed Gabbert, director of transportation for Williamstown Independent Schools, goes out to monitor the roads around 4:30 a.m. during inclement weather.
He tries to make a decision by 5 and 5:15 a.m. to allow enough notice for parents and staff who have a long commute.
“We don’t delay,” Gabbert said. “We’re either going or not. I don’t use the delay because it just throws everybody else’s schedule off and our schedule off with people going to work and babysitters. We’re either in or out.”
Despite being in the same county, the the school districts do not always call off classes when the other does.
Grant County Schools initially delayed school Jan. 25 before canceling classes altogether.
However, Williamstown Independent had school without even a delay.
Shipp said the decision to cancel was based on the forecast and sleet that was falling at 6 a.m. in the mid- to south-end of the county.
“It’s the roads that they travel compared to ours,” Gabbert said about the occasional split decisions among the districts. “They’ve got some issues out (in the county roads.) Our distance is a lot shorter as well. The state and the city has done a good job of treating those roads. If we’d had been out in the county, we wouldn’t have went either. It has all to do with the roads traveled.”
Regardless of the decision, it’s never an easy call to make, admits Gabbert.
“Sometimes you just hold your breath and pray a lot,” he said.