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School leaders to check roads, make calls on closings, delays

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — With the first winter storm of the season set to hit central Indiana on Thursday, area school districts were preparing Wednesday. 

“We start in the center of downtown and we just start making circles,” said Manual Mendez, transportation director for Indianapolis Public Schools. 

Mendez has it down to a science when it comes to inspecting roads as winter weather hits. 

“The deputy superintendent and I will be out on the road at 3:30 a.m.,” Mendez said. 

With just hours to help make the decision to be open, delay or cancel school for the biggest district in Indiana, Mendez looks for three main things when it comes to how safe it will be for the district’s 336 buses. 

Mendez told News 8 he focuses on the wind chill, the amount of snow and ice, and how well IPS bus drivers, parents and students can get around. 

“One of the things I really pay a lot of attention to is when you’re coming up to that intersection,” Mendez said. “Are you getting good braking? It’s a heavy vehicle so we feel pretty good about it, but you also have lighter vehicles that are out there, so we want to make sure we’ve got good clear intersections.”

By 4:45 a.m. Mendez said he has a good idea of how the roads are looking, and relays that information to the superintendent.

With IPS schools on tiered start times, Mendez said, a lot goes in to the superintendent’s decision. 

“He takes into consideration what other districts are doing,” Mendez said. “So, if there is a direction of the storm, you know seeing what the other districts were experiencing, how bad it was there, and then the input we give to him on how the roads are.” 

While the superintendent makes the final call at 6 a.m., Mendez said it’s really Mother Nature that has the final say as the district waits to see what she will bring.

“Just know that it’s going to be a slow day,” Mendez said. “It can’t help but be a slow day with that first snow. Not because we don’t want to be on time. It’s just you’re going to have a lot of drivers this may be their first experience in the snow. So, don’t go overboard when your bus is a little late. Expect it. But, know that we are going to get there, the bus is going to be warm and we’re going to be ok.” 

News 8 reached out to some other school districts on their plans.

Hamilton Southeastern officials said they will make the call to cancel or delay after crews check roads starting at 4 a.m.

Perry Township School District will make the call at 5 a.m.

For the latest on school closings and cancelations, tune in to News 8’s Daybreak starting at 4 a.m. or download the WISH-TV weather app to see a the list of closings and cancelations across central Indiana. 

To add your school, church, business, organization or other group to the closings and cancelations, go to the WISH-TV closings and delays page. You’ll find information on the right side of the page to sign up.