By Megan Kelley
As weather patterns continue to fluctuate, Lake Orion Community Schools had no choice but to cancel school on Wednesday and Thursday of last week and again on Tuesday.
On Thursday, the school district cited “untreated” back roads as the main reason behind school closures, according to a post on the district’s website, lakeorionschools.org.
“Safety is our top priority and we cannot safely travel our buses with students down those roads while they are still untreated by the county road commission,” the LOCS post stated. “We are doing everything in our power to have school open, but often it is beyond our control.”
With 760 miles worth of gravel roads throughout Oakland County, the Road Commission of Oakland County has been working day and night.
“We certainly have not been ignoring the back roads. We’ve had all of our graders out for the last couple of days trying to get the ice off. We’ve been sanding where we can,” said Craig Bryson, Public Information Officer for the Road Commission for Oakland County on Feb. 7. “We have 19 road graders and in order for that to be effective, the grader has to make at least two passes…and a grader travels 10 miles per hour, 15 mph tops, so it’s a very slow process and we’re doing everything we can.”
It is also important to note that as the temperature and weather fluctuates, the roads become more difficult to clear. The freezing and thawing and re-freezing of ice on gravel roads create a situation that even regular vehicles have a hard time navigating, much less school buses.
“Our district is in a unique position, with an array of different neighborhoods. Our buses travel paved, heavily traveled roads, like M-24, Joslyn and Baldwin,” said Superintendent Marion Ginopolis in a statement on Feb. 7. “They also pick up on a number of unpaved roads such as Indian Lake, East Clarkston or West Indianwood, where the weather has a much more serious effect, as with the ice in recent days. Without control over the roads, we rely on the Oakland County Road Commission for their treatment.”
As far as the number of canceled days, districts are allotted six canceled school days per year. Once those days are used up, superintendents may request an additional three days from the state superintendent through what is known as an “additional forgiven time waiver.”
Ultimately, this means that Lake Orion can potentially have up to nine days off without having to make them up.
“Michigan K-12 districts must provide 180 days of instruction to K-8 students and 181 days for 9-12 students and at least 1,098 hours of instruction during that time,” said Ginopolis. “If those requirements are not met, districts are at risk of not receiving their full State School Aid funding.”
Thursday’s and then Tuesday’s decision to cancel school has bumped Lake Orion up to 11 total canceled school days and put the district over their maximum number of days.
“As a result, the end of our school year will likely be extended. How long and by how much is a determination the LOCS Administration will make at the conclusion of the winter weather season,” said Ginopolis.
“We can promise we will approach every day the same way, trying to provide the highest quality — and safest – education possible for our students,” she said.