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Winter weather closes local schools

Mark Buffalo Cars pass through the stoplight at Center Street and U.S. Highway 70 on Friday afternoon following ice and snow coming through Lonoke.Buy Photo
Mark Buffalo Cars pass through the stoplight at Center Street and U.S. Highway 70 on Friday afternoon following ice and snow coming through Lonoke.

Carlisle and Lonoke Schools students had a four-day weekend, following winter weather that moved through Arkansas on Friday morning.

On Dec. 5, Lonoke superintendent Suzanne Bailey called school off on Friday due to the anticipation of severe winter weather approaching the area.

“I chose to close school [prior to the winter weather arrival] due to high percentage of inclement weather approaching and already hearing of its arrival in the northern part of the state with the storm moving our direction,” Bailey said. “I did this to be on the safe side for the students and staff at our school district.”

Carlisle superintendent Jason Clark, who also called off the Friday school day Thursday as the weather approached, said the form of wintry weather forecast played a major role in closing school before the weather arrived.

“Friday was called due to the certainty of the forecast (100 percent) and the type of wintry precipitation,” Clark said. “There is very little time when dealing with the freezing rain or sleet which was forecasted.”

Following the arrival of the wintry mix during early hours on Friday morning, roadways became increasingly hazardous as the day progressed. With temperatures continuously dropping throughout the day and well below freezing by the evening hours, accumulation began to freeze on the roadways.

After a second round of wintry mixed through the state over the weekend and driving conditions remained hazardous on Monday morning, closing schools yet another day due to road conditions.

“Monday’s decision was based on the lingering on ice on several off the roads in the district,” Clark said. “The northern end of the school district had very little thawing on bridges, culverts, and less traveled roadways.”

Bailey said she also closed school on Monday due to road conditions.

“Monday, I closed the school due to icy road conditions in some areas that I felt our school buses might have trouble transporting our students safely as well as staff commutes to work,” Bailey said. “Still dangerous sections of road to travel that were apparent upon my investigations.”

According to both Clark and Bailey, numerous factors pay into the decision to close school due to inclement weather.

“The decision is made after watching forecasts/weather models, physically driving roads, and communicating with law enforcement and district transportation personnel,” Clark said. “Neighboring superintendents are also contacted for information about roadways in surrounding districts.”

Despite icy patches on roadways, traffic freely flowed Tuesday morning as students returned to school for the week. Neither district reported any transportation issues, despite a few-minute delay on bus routes at Carlisle due to the decreased speed on roadways.

“No transportation issues today,” Bailey said. “I am very proud of the bus drivers.”

Now that two snow days have been used, both school calendars will reflect a change in the final day at school. For Carlisle the last day of school will now be June 2. Students will also attend school on Presidents Day, Feb. 17, to make up an additional day of school. The Carlisle School District has five predetermined snow days in the district annual calendar.

“Additional snow days are scheduled for June 3, 4, and 5,” Clark said. ” If more than three more days are missed, employees will be presented options regarding when to make up the additional days. The Carlisle Board of Education would be presented a proposal regarding the additional make up days. Students must have the opportunity to attend 178 days in a school year.”

Lonoke will utilize the Friday prior to Spring Break on March 21 as a snow day. Additional snow days are May 30, June 1, 2 and 3.

“The other days will be added to the end of the calendar,” Bailey said.

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