The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 6, 2012

Foggy travel risk is too great to ignore

The Daily Item

— While dense fog blanketed the Valley Monday and Tuesday morning, no local school district called for a weather-related delay to the start of school.

Both mornings, cars collided with buses in the Midd-West School District.

Wesley Knapp, the Midd-West School District superintendent, said he “never gave a delay a thought,” noting that he has worked in other districts where fog was an issue but school was not postponed because of it. Elsewhere across the country, though, school officials delayed school this week because of fog. In areas where fog is a reoccurring problem, there are criteria in place that govern decisions concerning delays.

School officials note that even though fog does directly impact the road conditions, bus drivers who take care should not have problems. But, even assuming that all bus operators drive responsibly, that assumption does not take into consideration that limited visibility will contribute to the potential danger posed by other drivers.

School officials have demonstrated that they understand their obligations regarding managing safety concerns during bus trips to and from school. Parents are familiar with the challenge of adapting when there are delays due to snow and even rain. Many schools were closed for two days this fall as the region braced for a superstorm that devastated much of the East Coast, even though in the end only isolated problems occurred in Central Pennsylvania.

There may be particular challenges in responding to fog in a region where the topography features so many hills and valleys. School officials, nevertheless, ought to be able to adopt protocols that take into consideration those factors and provide a guide to responding when the entire region is draped in heavy fog.

Parents are accustomed to the need to be flexible as schools adjust their operating schedules in deference to weather conditions. The public, by and large, appreciates that temporary inconvenience is preferable to maintenance of the usual timetable when that schedule of activity could put the community’s young people at risk. Parents are asked to trust that schools will take care of their children from the moment they step onto the bus in the morning until the moment they return to the bus stop in the evening.  An occasional delay — for whatever potentially dangerous weather conditions arise — is a worthy investment in precaution.