Snow’s Timing Brought Tough Decisions for School Leaders

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BAXTER, Iowa — Just because she got up a few hours before the sun, that didn’t make the day’s decisions any easier for Dr. Mickolyn Clapper. Clapper, the superintendent of Baxter Community School District in Jasper County, said that she got up around 4:15 a.m. Monday.

She checked in with area superintendents, watched a Zoom informational update with the National Weather Service and chatted with her staff. The conclusion: Send the students to class but it would be a short day. And she knew not all parents would agree since there hadn’t been a single snowflake that fell yet when she alerted families.

“If there was snow on the ground already or if we know it was coming really early this morning, we would have just gone ahead and not had school,” Clapper explained.

Clapper wanted to squeeze in some learning in the classroom but also give the students a chance to grab their electronic devices to bring home in preparation for a remote day of learning on Tuesday with so much snow expected.

She added that Baxter is unusual compared to many other districts in the state. Nearly a quarter of its students open enroll from other communities, so that’s why she feels that it is important to see what the weather forecast is in neighboring communities, too. “I have to watch what’s happening in Newton, Colfax-Mingo, Collins-Maxwell and West Marshall,” Clapper said, “just because we have kids coming from all over the place.”

Superintendent Mike Wright said that he started preparing families and students in the Earlham Community School District for Monday’s giant snowfall on Friday. “I told them Friday to bring home their computers just in case,” Wright said.

That left the decision-making a little easier for him on Monday. Wright decided to keep students home and have them learn virtually. While some districts have had students learn remotely for several weeks or several months so far this school year, Earlham has now only had that happen twice. “For the other snowstorm,” Wright laughed.

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