School board members discuss Feb. 29 school closing with district bus driversThe midday school closing Feb. 29 continues to be a source of debate as local bus drivers appeared before the Lake Superior School District school board at the school board meeting last Thursday.
The midday school closing Feb. 29 continues to be a source of debate as local bus drivers appeared before the Lake Superior School District school board at the school board meeting last Thursday.
Two Harbors bus driver and union steward Paul Beckey said the bus drivers who sent a signed statement to the News-Chronicle last week, stating that they disagreed with the decision to transport students through the storm, stand by their words.
Beckey said the bus drivers do not think it’s their position to make the call on school closings. “Our concern is purely safety. We have no interest in having part of the decision of whether to have school or not have school,” he said.
“I’m embarrassed that I did drive that day. Because we truly felt that in those whiteout conditions, too much was at risk. Thank God no accidents happened that day,” he said.
“We can do all the strategic planning you want. But if a major part of your strategic planning is praying that something isn’t going to come of that white cloud [snow], and you can avoid it, you should. They [the kids] were safe where they were,” Beckey added.
School board chair Dwight Moe told Beckey that school board members, in his estimation, have never called school off. But he said the decision to close school usually takes about one to two hours to be implemented. Moe also said some people seem to think schools in the Lake Superior School District closed after midday because of foundation aid. “That is absolutely false. I just want to make that perfectly clear,” Moe said.
Moe asked what the schools would do if the students stayed in school. “We don’t have beds of any kind, and we’re not set up to feed them,” he said.
“As much as people think it’s simple to send kids home—it’s not,” said Superintendent Phil Minkkinen the Tuesday after the meeting. He said his decision to cancel school midday on Feb. 29 was catalyzed by Lake County, who told him that they would pull their plows off the road at dark. However, Minkkinen said he was told the County would help out bus drivers if they had trouble when transporting the students home. Silver Bay and Minnehaha Elementary School students were let out at 1 p.m. School for Two Harbors High School students ended at 1:30 p.m.