While everyone associated with Great Bend USD 428 schools — whether it be employees, parents or students — is still burrowed deep within their blankets fending off the icy chill of Old Man Winter and praying for a snow day, there’s a team out in the wee dark hours of the morning trying to come to a consensus about whether or not to call off school.
The decision process actually begins the day and night before an anticipated winter storm.
Administrators contact the National Weather Bureau to understand the storm pattern and expected storm duration. They also check with the Kansas Highway Patrol regarding road conditions and check several weather sites such as KSN Weather Lab, Weather Net, Kansas Weather and Intellicast.com that shows Kansas weather on a radar loop.
After the initial determination that the weather may be an issue, Superintendent Khris Thexton initiates the snow-day decision process. At 4:45 a.m. he calls his road team to join him in driving preassigned roads and streets. Those tapped include Joel Wilson, Dirk Davis and Cody Schmidt. Each member of the four-man team has a specific area to drive. The team remains in constant contact.
Meanwhile, Tricia Reiser and John Popp, administrators, open the District Education Center and continue to gather information from the National Weather Bureau. At 5:45 a.m. the team assembles at DEC to share what they have learned first-hand concerning street conditions and the status of the various school buildings.
A decision is made by 5:55 a.m. If school is called off, the calling tree is initiated and various news outlets are notified.
If school is to proceed as usual, there will be no notice through radio or television.
If school remains open, USD custodial and maintenance staff kick into high gear. They report to work early in order to clear snow away for students and employees.
The maintenance staff will deliver snow blowers to the buildings and help custodians clean sidewalks. Building custodians are responsible for cleaning building approaches, sidewalks from the entrances to the main sidewalks, main sidewalks and treating steps and sidewalks with snowmelt to keep areas safe for walking.
A team of maintenance workers also works clearing parking lots and cutbacks for on-street parking. Their goal is to have everything cleared off and safe for everyone by 7:30 a.m.