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2/6/2014 3:00:00 PM
Winter continues to hammer the County

Have you had it with winter yet?

Switzerland County once again was pounded by a winter storm this week, this time dumping more than one-half inch of ice on the area along with more snow.

The winter weather caused more cancellations, with schools being closed on Wednesday, raising to 11 the number of days that students have missed this year. Switzerland County School Superintendent Mike Jones said that by using built in make up days, the schools are currently four days over what the calendar allows for.

"We have missed 11 days as of Wednesday, and we've already made one day up," Mike Jones said. "We had two of those days waived by the State Board of Education; and we have four more days built into the school calendar - Presidents Day, Good Friday, and two days in June in the week prior to graduation."

The superintendent said that the State Board of Education was to meet in Indianapolis on Wednesday, and one of the items on their agenda was a discussion of the possibility of waiving more days, due to the fact that the winter weather situation is statewide, not just confined to one area of the state.

Another item on the State Board's agenda is the possibility of moving back the ISTEP test dates this spring. "We need as many days in school before those tests as possible to allow our students the best chance to succeed," the superintendent said.

After the State makes its determinations, the local school board will then be saddled with a decision - does the first week of the school's two-week Spring Break go away, putting five more school days in play and reducing the Spring Break to just one week?

"We would have to make some accommodations, but that may be something that we would have to look at," Mike Jones said. "That may be disappointing for some families, but I also don't think parents want their children going to school late into June."

All of this, of course, assumes that no more days will be missed. The superintendent said on Wednesday that he hopes that schools can be open today (Thursday) with possibly a two-hour delay, and praised the work of town, county, and state highway departments for the long hours that they are putting in to clear the roads.

At the county level, the Courthouse was closed on Wednesday due to the weather, and at different times over the past days and weeks, travel status updates have been given to warn motorists on the roads of potential problems.

Some good news is that forecasted snow for tomorrow (Friday) and through the weekend seems to be lessening, and Spring is now just 43 days away.

*

So when the county issues a "Travel Status", what exactly does that mean?

According to Switzerland County Emergency Management Agency director Connie Wallace, the county commissioners and EMA can issue advisories when conditions are hazardous for travel by the public.

"Safety takes priority when determining whether to issue a travel advisory or not," Connie Wallace said. "The decision is not taken lightly, as we know it affects everyone in the county, but again - safety rules."

The warning levels are at three different alert status's:



WARNING (Level 3 - RED)

The highest level of local travel advisory, means that travel may be restricted to emergency personnel only. During a "Warning" local travel advisory, individuals are directed to refrain from all travel, unauthorized travel will receive citations;



WATCH (Level 2 - ORANGE)

Watch means that conditions are threatening to the safety of the public. During a "Watch" travel advisory, only essential travel, such as to and from work or in emergency situations, is recommended, and emergency action plans should be implemented by business, schools, government agencies, and other organizations.



ADVISORY (Level 1 - YELLOW)

The lowest level of local travel advisory means that routine travel or activities may be restricted in areas because of a hazardous situation. During an "Advisory" travel advisory, individuals should use caution or avoid those areas.





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