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Keeping the doors open

January 16, 2014 - Steve Murch
The one thing that never ceases to surprise me is how many people want to call and complain: A. when school is called off, and B. when school isn't called off. I'm not sure, but I'm willing to bet on at least one occasion someone who called about A in the past has called about B.

What I find surprising is that these people just want to vent and think calling me is the thing to do. They don't want to write a letter to the editor, nor do they want to ask the school why or why not. They want to vent and think it's my obligation to listen to them. I'm willing to listen — up to a point. If there isn't a point to their call other than to complain about something I have nothing to do with, then at some point I have other work to do. Goodbye.

Having grown up the son of a rural-school superintendent, I have seen what goes into making a decision. Times have changed, but circumstances still are different for every school. What works for Alpena, for instance, doesn't work for Hillman even though the two schools are neighbors.

When I was in school we lived in Mancelona — right in the heart of the snow belt. My dad would get up about 5 a.m. and drive around the countryside to check the roads that were traditionally bad for buses. He carried a big shovel with him in case he got stuck. Remember, this was long before the time of cell phones, and some stretches of country road go miles between houses. Better to have a shovel and be able to get out than be stranded.

The road commission manager also lived in Mancelona and my dad could consult with him some times, but most times dad made the decision by himself.

Making a decision on whether to have the district's kids on buses in bad weather and/or on bad roads is one school superintendents don't take lightly. They don't want to jeopardize kids' lives, but they also know the ramifications of taking off every day it snows. Nobody wants kids handing in papers “How I spent my Fourth of July vacation (last week).”

This all comes up because on Tuesday the Petoskey boys basketball team was involved in anaccident on its way home from a game in Cadillac. The team made it home in a school bus Cadillac provided Petoskey. In this case, the weather came in late on Tuesday, but still you have to believe the schools looked at the players' safety in traveling before Petoskey ever left for Cadillac. And thankfully the team made it home without injuries from the crash.

Decisions about schools staying open or being closed aren't made lightly and people have to understand that superintendents wrestle with these decisions. It's not a coin flip.


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