Among students, they are the most popular Metro Nashville Public School employees. By now, parents are probably pretty irritated with them.
MNPS calls them “The Snow Patrol.”
They are the men and women of Metro schools’ Transportation Department who decide whether buses will run and school bells will ring.
Sometimes that decision is easy. When the snowstorm dropped 4 inches overnight last Sunday into Monday morning, it didn’t take a lot of hard work to make the call to Snowbird. As the week wore on, though, traffic and the salts and plows of Metro Public Works managed to make most of the main roads passable.
Of course, not every student lives on a main road, and not every bus route is confined to the interstates and major secondaries. Those rural areas are where the Snow Patrol really goes to work. Dozens of Transportation Department workers fan out over the city, driving hundreds of miles of roads, traversing the bus routes. They take notes on road conditions and, this being the 21st century, snap digital photos.
In the case of a major storm — or a long freeze following a big event, like last week — the Snow Patrol makes continual assessments, doing their rounds three times a day. They contact local meteorologists, seeking what MNPS describes as a “frank and honest assessment” of snow chances. Once the reports are filed, the photos are examined, the call is made and the word disseminated quickly.
The Snow Patrol errs on the side of caution, and in a county as large as Davidson, road conditions can vary widely. There’s no doubt it can be clear in Crieve Hall and still janky in Joelton.
But this caution has caused another problem. Metro — like most other school systems — has “built-in” snow days. But MNPS only accounted for four such days this year. The last of the quartet came and went last Tuesday. Now the schools have to figure out how to make up the time.
Last year, a half hour was added to each school day for the last five weeks of the academic year. Predictably, this plan didn’t play well with parents — or students. Maybe the Snow Patrol’s popularity won’t hold up, after all.