By Noah Alatza
As winter weather continues, Westfield Washington Schools is not taking any chances with students’ safety.
Chris Baldwin, the district’s director of human resources and safety, said WWS always errs on the side of caution when imposing a weather-related delay or closing.
“The bottom line is the safety of students and staff,” Baldwin said. “When it comes to a weather situation, there really is no black and white.”
The district does not have a concrete rule on when to close schools because weather varies.
“There is no set temperature we look at,” Baldwin said. “We could have a day where we go to school in zero-degree weather, but other (days) when you factor in the wind chill that we cannot.”
Baldwin said Supt. Sherry Grate communicates with superintendents at nearby school corporations because some might have additional information on the status of neighborhood and rural country roads. The district also monitors travel advisories issued by county government.
District interim Transportation Director Nick Verhoff drives and tests roadways early in the morning before delays or cancellations are made by senior administrators.
As for Westfield’s fleet of buses, Baldwin said transportation employees are top-notch and get to work as early as possible to prevent mishaps.
“They start every single bus to make sure that they are up and running,” Baldwin said. “We try to make sure that all of the buses are heated properly, and we have a preventative plan in place if some don’t start.”
Indiana law requires school districts to have at least one school safety specialist. According to Baldwin, Westfield has 14 certified administrators, which places one or more in each building.
Sodexo is contracted by WWS to shovel and salt sidewalks, along with maintaining the parking lots and roads of school-owned property.
Baldwin said he has seen Sodexo workers go above and beyond. They often come to work at a moment’s notice during inclement weather.
“Every time (WWS) decides to close, (administrators) debrief and see what did work out and what needs review,” Baldwin said. “We only have past situations to look at. You can never recreate the same combination.”