The snow Friday led many, but not all, schools in Williams County to close.
Tioga Public School District No. 15, Grenora Public School District No. 99 and Williams County Public School District No. 8 were all closed. Nesson Public School District No. 2 in Ray did not run its buses and Eight Mile Public School District No. 6 in Trenton closed at 12:30 p.m. Williston Trinity Christian School was also open, but parents were allowed to pick their children up
Williston Public School District No. 1 was open, but all after-school activities were canceled.
District 1 decides on whether to close school earlier than the other, more rural districts that surround it, according to Peter Frankman, a spokesman for the district.
“When we make the decision, we make it at about 5:30 in the morning,” Frankman said. “It’s a very thought-out process, it just happens early in the morning.”
Part of the reason for the early timing is that all food for the district’s schools is prepared at either Williston High School or Williston Middle School, and the workers have to start around 6 a.m. to feed the 4,100 students in the district.
If each school prepared food, the district could make the decision later, Frankman said.
The district also wants to minimize the number of make-up days. School will already be in session on April 2 to make up for a closing earlier this month. That means any additional days would have to be added to the end of the year.
“And if we cancel school, a lot of kids wouldn’t get food that they need that day,” Frankman said.
Another consideration is the size of District 1.
The district is relatively compact, and because most of the students who attend the schools come from the city of Williston, the roads they use are plowed more regularly.
Some have criticized the district for not closing when there is a no-travel advisory issued by the North Dakota Department of Transportation.
But, Frankman said, those advisories are for highways and for more remote roads.
Before making the decision on whether to have school, Superintendent Michael Campbell drives around to check out the roads, the district’s facilities director looks at the conditions around different schools and district officials reach out to city officials in Williston.
“If the city of Williston said it’s unsafe today and not to drive, we’d absolutely close,” Frankman said.
Because the district doesn’t bus students, parents also have to decide whether they feel comfortable taking their kids to school, he said. Many people in the district are comfortable driving in winter weather, but some are not.
“If it’s dangerous for you, if you aren’t comfortable, then don’t do something you don’t think is safe,” he said.