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Union schools records eight consecutive snow days
February 8, 2019

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Students, faculty and administrators at Union received a surprise second winter break as record-low temperatures and snow kept them out of school for nearly two weeks between January 22 to January 31.

"There were absolutely no indication this would turn into so many snow days," Travis Fleshner, Union Superintendent said. " When we look back there weren't any snowfall totals that were out of the ordinary, but when you add wind and more wind it becomes a problem."

According to Fleshner, the two main issues that caused this extended break were wind and extreme cold, especially during Tuesday, Jan. 29 and Wednesday, Jan. 30. During this time period, Union CSD had more than a winter's worth of cancellations in Fleshner's book. Wind and snow also affected roads and transportation, another factor considered in school cancellation with the district's bus system.

"Any community members that travelled beyond the city limits were well aware of the issues on county and country roads," Fleshner said. "Our city, county, and state workers were really fighting an uphill battle during this event, the wind and cold made it nearly impossible to try and keep roads cleared. I feel they need to commended for their efforts. Any extended travel on gravels roads during most of this period was not advised unless you had a four-wheel drive vehicle and at times that was enough. The first round of snow caused firmly packed drifts and were difficult to move or bypass and during the second round of snow it was much lighter and caused additional whiteout conditions. The maintenance crews need to focus their attention on more highly travelled roads, so many gravel roads remained closed or open to one-lane traffic for several days."

When deciding to cancel a school day, the first and foremost important thing for Fleshner and Union administration is the safety and students and staff. Fleshner looks at weather forecasts both in the short and long range in the morning, midday and evening. If there potential bad weather forecasted, conditions are monitored and Fleshner communicates with neighboring school districts on what they are observing and what they are planning. On a morning with bad weather possible, the superintendent and the transportation director, Mike Timmer, are up and on the roads early to access gravel roads. Fleshner's goal is to have a decision by no later than 5:30 a.m., an hour before the first bus starts out. Thanks in part to social media and other communication avenues, Union is able to get the word out about school as quickly as possible.

"Community members were very understanding and I certainly appreciated their patience during all of these cancellations," Fleshner said. "Anymore with social media people are so much more connected and we have access to so much information more quickly than in years past."

Fleshner and administration continue to monitor the weather as winter continues in Iowa. On Tuesday, the school district let out two hours early and cancelled events due to a short ice storm across the area.

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