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Hall schools testing new maps for inclement weather

Schools to be in session Feb. 17; more makeup days may be in works

POSTED: February 10, 2014 7:31 p.m.

Hall County School District Superintendent Will Schofield has learned over the years how to be an early riser, especially when inclement weather threatens road conditions.

While the rest of the county sleeps as snow and ice accumulate, Schofield usually heads out in a pickup truck to check road conditions so he can make an informed decision on whether to close schools or not.

But with a new program the school district gets to conveniently try out this week with predicted winter weather, he may still be an early riser but be able to check road conditions from the comfort of his own home.

“We have recently, and I mean very recently within the last 10 days, utilized the technology of Google Drive,” Schofield said. “(We’ve) utilized these incredible partnerships that we’ve talked about with the fire department and the sheriff’s office, and we think (we came) up with what is a cutting-edge plan to give us up-to-the-minute information in terms of the road conditions.”

Using Google Drive and Google Maps, school officials have designed a method to get real-time road conditions from law enforcement and emergency management teams already out and about in the county.

Sixty “problematic” roads have been identified in the county for those individuals to report on in bad weather. For example, a sheriff’s deputy would call in to dispatch to give a report on a particular road, rating it from zero to three. A zero would be a clear road, while three would mean impassable.

That information would then be transferred to a document within Google Drive for school officials to see how the road was rated, along with any additional notes. Further, a map of Hall County with the roads outlined would be updated, with the roads colored by their rating.

“This is really going to help Mr. Schofield a day or two after the big snow,” School Safety Coordinator Lt. Earl Roach said. “Like, (Monday night into Tuesday) could be a no-brainer (in calling off school), but the day or two after that is when he has to make a tough decision based on those 60 roads.”

Schools are closed today, making this the fifth day this school year classes have been canceled for weather. Classes were closed Jan. 7 due to frigid temperatures, and most recently Jan. 29-31 for snow and icy conditions.

School board members voted at the Monday meeting to restore Feb. 17 as a full day for both teachers and students to make up for Jan. 7; it had originally been on the calendar as a teacher work day. The other change to the calendar was to restore May 27-28 as teacher work days.

“That is not addressing what we already know, is that school is closed (today),” said Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Eloise Barron. “But that gets us up to today.”

The forecast calls for more snow and icy conditions throughout the day Wednesday, making the timing of the district’s mapping system never better.

“As a taxpayer, as a father, I thank the sheriff’s department, I thank emergency management,” Schofield said. “This is the way government is supposed to run. It’s supposed to be entities getting around the table and saying ‘You guys have got some resources we don’t have, we may have a little bit more expertise you don’t have, you’ve got some manpower we don’t have. How can we put this together for a product that benefits our community?’”


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