School officials keep close watch on the forecast

By Josh Simon

February 20, 2013 Updated Feb 21, 2013 at 12:19 PM CDT

PEORIA COUNTY, Ill. -- School officials are keeping a close eye on the forecast.

From the moment significant snowfall makes it way into the forecast, Brimfield Superintendent Dennis McNamara starts getting ready.

"We have all of the safety procedures in place," said McNamara. "We have all of the calling trees ready to go. The whole process starts a couple of days in advance, making sure all of equipment in the school district is working. The snow blowers are fired up and you have the salt for the ice."

Once the snow starts, the biggest decision a district makes is whether or not to cancel school.

"Everybody thinks you should be canceling before you even get a snowflake out there," said McNamara. "Over the years, we've been able to work closely with the meteorologists in the area and they've been giving us good advice but there is one thing you can't do anything about and that's the weather."

"It's like being a basketball official," said Elmwood Superintendent Dr. Richard Alvey. "No matter what call you make, half the gym is upset and the other half of the gym is happy. It's something we learn to live with and we try to make educated decisions that are in the best interest and security of the students."

The amount of snow is only one factor taken into account.

"In the rural areas, like most of my district is, when the wind starts blowing and you've got one or two inches of snow that's a huge factor for us," said Alvey. "It's not so much quantity as it is wind and a lot of it is timing as well."

The storm is expected to begin Thursday afternoon and could cause an entire different set of problems for school officials.

"Tomorrow night happens to be a busy activity night for us," said District 150 Spokesman Chris Coplan. "So that will be a big focus with the storm supposed to be moving in the afternoon. We'll be looking at those activities and where our buses are going. So our crews will be out monitoring the streets in the city but also be taking a look at the locations that our teams and our activities are going."

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