FARMINGTON — Davis School District’s administrators want to improve the procedure for weather-related school closures following Thursday’s windstorm.
“We understand Centerville had their hands full and wanted to get as many people off the streets as soon as possible, but we need to control the situation,” said Christopher Williams, the school district’s communication and partnerships director.
Teachers, staff and students were already at several schools at 7 a.m. Thursday when Centerville police and city officials decided to announce schools in their city were closed, Williams said.
“We understand the challenges they were facing, but they don’t have the authority to close schools,” he said.
Typically, when it is a snow day, district officials make a decision by 6 a.m. about whether to close schools. After that time, buses are already on the road picking up students.
High schools generally start classes at 7:30 a.m., with junior highs beginning classes at 8:10 a.m. and elementary schools starting at 8:40 a.m.
Williams said district administrators plan to meet with officials from a number of Davis County cities, along with Davis County officials, to discuss ways to improve the procedure to close schools.
The district closed 28 schools Thursday because of weather conditions.
“It was a rolling closure,” Williams said.
Even though Davis County gets windstorms, he said, the district generally does not close schools because of high wind.
As the day progressed, though, more and more parents arrived at schools, taking their children home. Principals called the district to let them know they had more staff than students, Williams said.
Davis County Sheriff’s Sgt. Susan Poulsen said law enforcement had heeded the warning about the windstorm Thursday, but “when it became clear it was more forceful than we initially thought, that is when we activated our (emergency operation center).”
Poulsen said the windstorm was much bigger than previous ones.
District officials also had to deal with 69 of its 206 school buses being damaged during the windstorm.
Only one bus driver of the 206 drivers was seriously injured, said Brian Larsen, director of the district’s transportation department.
Rocks and limbs pelted buses parked in the Farmington compound, breaking windows and sandblasting the paint, Larsen said. Other buses were damaged as they traveled on the streets.
So far, the amount of damage to the buses is estimated at $68,000, and officials know that will increase before all of the buses are repaired.
“Some literally are missing all of their windows,” Larsen said.
Bus drivers and mechanics on Friday drove buses, minus their windows, from the Farmington compound to the Freeport West Center, where the district’s shop is.
“That’s what heaters are for,” Larsen said.
Mechanics worked late Friday and Saturday making repairs. A number of buses lost emergency hatches, which are 27 inches by 27 inches, on top of the buses, Larsen said.
Each bus has two hatches. The hatches provide an escape route for passengers in case a bus rolls.
One bus carrying elementary school students lost its hatch in front of Valley View Golf Course, Williams said.
The bus driver, Jared Allen, parked the bus in the golf course’s parking lot and got out of the bus to retrieve the hatch. The wind “picked up the bus driver and threw him down,” Williams said.
Allen sustained a broken ankle and will be off work for several weeks to recover.
Dustin Volk, the head pro at Valley View Golf Course, saw what happened and ran to Allen’s rescue, said Craig Sanders, the golf course superintendent.
Another bus also stopped to help until paramedics arrived, and a third bus helped transport the seven students to school.
“Jared’s main concern was the students, and the golf pros helped keep the kids calm,” Williams said.
Sanders said Volk kept the students on the bus until the third bus arrived. “Dustin had real courage to stand out there in the wind.”