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Snow covers roads, empties classrooms

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Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. called off classes Tuesday, the second time since Friday that school was canceled because of measurable snowfall.

These decisions typically start with early-morning phone calls led by Superintendent John Quick to assess road conditions. On Tuesday morning, the reports Quick received from police and road-clearing crews weren’t so good.

Before dawn, Quick consulted with the city garage, county highway department, police, school superintendents in neighboring counties and his own bus-operations staff.

“We made the decision to close around 6 a.m. We typically try to make a decision a little earlier — around 5:30 a.m. — but we had already announced a two-hour delay the night before, so we had a little extra time,” Quick said.

“I was optimistic (Monday) night, but it snowed overnight and the timing just wasn’t good. Some of the main roads (including stretches of State Road 46) were icy in the early morning hours,” Quick said. “We’d rather err on the side of safety. We can make up (snow) days.”

Bryan Burton, city garage manager, said snow kept falling until about 6 a.m., and it was difficult for road crews to clear even main roads until the flakes stopped.

“Once it quit snowing, that helped us out,” Burton said. “We were able to get road salt applied, and we started seeing some pavement.”

Burton said road conditions improved substantially after the sun came up and spread its relative warmth.

“Sunshine is your best friend in these cases,” Burton said.

Rush-hour car and truck traffic also tore through more snow and ice, turning much of it into a manageable slush.

Later Tuesday morning, Burton said road crews still were plowing on a number of isolated side roads and dealing with tough areas where ice was packed down from last weekend’s winter storms.

“If it’s packed down, it’s real hard to break though,” he said.

The city had coped to have all of its secondary streets cleared by Tuesday night.

Karen Wetherald, the school district’s transportation manager, said she recommended not rolling the buses at all Tuesday morning.

“I was out on the road at 4:15 a.m., and I was actually surprised that we got more snow than we had expected,” Wetherald said. “One of my secretaries also went out, and we both realized how poor the conditions were. In some spots, it was worse than last Friday.”

Wetherald said she was glad that Quick made the decision to cancel school for the day.

“I wouldn’t have been comfortable rolling even after a two-hour delay,” Wetherald said. “Early in the morning, Marr Road, U.S. 31, State Road 46 ... there was no pavement to be seen at all. It was extremely treacherous,” she said.

“The farther north you went, they didn’t get as much snow. But west, east and south were all hit hard. We had three inches of snow, and that was on top of the ice from last weekend and very low temperatures,” Wetherald said.

The decision to cancel school took into consideration more than just bus transportation, Quick said.

“We consider all the young drivers taking their own cars to school (for high school classes) and our staff members,” he said. “The county does the best job they can, but it’s a tough task to clear 600 miles of roads.”

The fact that main roads were in fair to poor condition early made the decision to close the right call, Quick said. “The condition of the main roads was the tipping point,” the superintendent said.

“This year, all the forecasts call for a pretty difficult winter. We’ll see what happens,” Quick said.

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