Superintendent said call to cancel school made for safety

MT. PLEASANT — With predicted snowfalls up to 14 inches in Southeast Iowa. Superintendents had to make some tough calls on whether to call off school early Monday morning.

Later, the storm stalled, resulting in a later snowfall than what was originally expected.

Mt. Pleasant schools Superintendent John Henriksen was one of the superintendents that had to make the tough decision. Monday morning, with a big storm on the way and snowfall that was expected to start in the midmorning, according to the National Weather Service, he was faced with a tough decision

During a Zoom call with the National Weather Service at 4:30 a.m. Monday, Henriksen and other Iowa superintendents discussed how the weather was going to potentially affect the roads.

During the call, Henriksen was able to ask one of the meteorologists about when the storm would hit Mt. Pleasant. The expert predicted between 9 a.m. and noon the storm would reach Mt. Pleasant, and they would then have about an hour before the storm would become unsafe for drivers.

With that in mind, Henriksen couldn’t let kids go to school, with there not being enough time to have half a day of school, according to the information he was provided. Thus with the safety of district staff and students in mind, he decided that school wouldn’t be in session on Monday.

However, some saw that the call might have been made a little too early, with the snowfall not coming until about 2 p.m.

“I wish we could do it over again because then we could have gotten a half-day of school in, but we made the best decision that we could given the information that we had,” Henriksen said.

With the weather and road conditions, Tuesday morning brought an easier decision, according to Henriksen. With county paved roads not plowed and many of the county’s gravel roads being unsafe, Henriksen didn’t think that a two-hour delay would give the county’s road maintenance crew enough time to clean and prepare roads for the district’s buses or student vehicles.

“The chance of conditions improving really is the difference-maker: What are the road conditions like and do we think they are going to improve with that two hours’ worth of time for the road crews to salt, sand and plow the roads,” Henriksen said.

“Like this morning, we went out and there was no way they were going to get the roads done in time, so we canceled,” he added.

Henriksen said the district’s decision is largely based on whether the district’s fleet of buses can safely pick up and transport students to the schools. Henriksen said that they want the roads to be safe enough for everyone, but the district looks to see whether buses can travel first.

“Our decision is based on the buses, and for the buses to travel safely. Obviously, we want everyone to travel safely, but what it really comes down to if our buses can travel safely,” Henriksen said.