By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — When inclement weather hits and local athletic directors have to decide whether to go ahead with games and practices or shut things down for the evening, a variety of factors are considered — ultimately, however, one weighs in above all others.
“It’s always about the safety of the kids,” Troy athletic director Dave Palmer said. “Will it be safe for the kids to be out on the roads? Safety is — and always will be — our No. 1 concern.”
Still, though, what constitutes safe road conditions is a subjective decision. Troy — like many schools throughout the county — does not have a set policy when it comes to hosting games and practices, but instead chooses to do with bad weather days on a case-by-case basis.
“We do not have a set policy,” Palmer said. “Just because school is closed for a snow day, that doesn’t necessarily mean we will not have games or practices that evening. A good example would be if we had blinding fog at 7 a.m. and you can’t see your hand in front of your face because it’s so thick, they may have to cancel school that day. Maybe the sun comes out at noon and burns off all the fog and everything is fine … it wouldn’t make much sense to cancel games and practices that night.”
Such was the case Wednesday, as Troy City Schools were canceled, but the decision was made to hold practices and games, including the Troy girls basketball team’s game against state-ranked Sidney.
“Sometimes, the same sort of thing will happen with cold and snow. The road conditions may be bad in the morning — bad enough to cancel school — but then the sun comes out and starts to melt everything and the road crews and can get out and everything is fine by the afternoon. If there’s a foot of snow on the ground, that’s a no-brainer — we are going to cancel activities for the evening. But that’s not always the case.”
Palmer said he doesn’t make the decision whether to proceed with games and practices on his own.
“I’ll meet with the principal, the superintendent and the transportation director,” he said. “We’ll all put our heads together and try to do what’s best for the kids.”
Palmer said that while Troy may not have a set policy regarding snow days, there are other schools that do — and those policies can sometimes affect Troy’s game schedules.
“In some districts, it’s a set policy that if you don’t have school that day, you are done,” he said. “You aren’t allowed to play games and you aren’t allowed to practice. If that’s their policy, you have to work with them on that.”
Like Palmer, Miami East athletic director Scot Donaldson said safety comes first.
“Generally, our policy is that if we have a snow day, everything is canceled for the junior high,” Donaldson said. “That’s my policy. Now for the high school policy, Dr. Rappold and I — along with some other people — will get out and drive the roads and we’ll all get together after noon and make a decision. We’ll get together and talk — and we’ll call the sheriff if we have to do see how the roads are — and we’ll make that decision. But nothing is going to happen until after noon. No one is going to be in our gym before 1 p.m.”
While Miami East did not have any sporting events scheduled for Wednesday, practices did take place at the school — which was closed for the academic day — during the afternoon.
At Miami East, Donaldson faces a different set of challenges than Palmer, as his teams are forced to travel more rural roads than their Troy counterparts — many of which are cleared well after those within the Troy city limits.
“We’ve probably got more ground to cover out here,” he said. “The roads in Brown Township may be a lot different than the roads in Elizabeth Township. We will either enter all the townships or talk to people who have been in all the townships before we make a decision. And even after we make a decision, if we have a snow day and the parents don’t feel safe having their kid come to practice, they can keep them at home and won’t face any disciplinary action.
“Another thing we’ve got to consider out here is, ‘What are the roads going to be like after the games?’ Sure, we can have buses take the state routes to the games because they are clear, but what about when the bus gets back to the school and the kids have to drive home? I don’t want want kids driving down Polecat Road or Alcony-Conover where the wind just blows and everything ices up.”
Donaldson said that while he and fellow staff members try to take every factor into consideration, making the ultimate decision remains an inexact science.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years now and I know there have been times when I’ve got back from games and I didn’t feel safe driving home because the weather got worse during the game,” he said. “But I also remember the time I canceled a wrestling invitational because the ‘white death’ was supposed to be coming — and it ended up being the nicest day we had all winter. I’m standing out there in an empty parking lot thinking, ‘What they heck did I just do?’”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong