No-win situation: Swartz Creek superintendent bemoans snow day criticism

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SWARTZ CREEK (WJRT) (2/13/2019) - Swartz Creek Community Schools Superintendent Ben Mainka got national coverage of his duet two weeks ago, announcing classes were canceled to the tune of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

But the decisions he's had to make on whether to have classes or call a snow day are much less popular with some parents in the community.

Mainka posted a note on Facebook after deciding to hold classes Wednesday morning explaining his process evaluating whether a snow day is necessary.

Mainka said he received a significant amount of criticism from parents after calling several snow days over the past three weeks due to harsh winter weather. He also received "a large number" of angry phone calls and emails after deciding to hold classes Wednesday.

"It is always a difficult decision that I do not take lightly whenever we contemplate closing, and there will be people on both sides of the issue depending on the day," Mainka wrote.

Some of the criticism he received referenced a Swartz Creek bus that allegedly went into a ditch due to poor road conditions. Mainka dispelled that as inaccurate.

"We had a bus that during their normal routine turnaround on one of the routes went off of the shoulder by less than a foot," he said. "The bus and students were unaffected and the bus continued their route as planned."

Mainka said the scheduled state school count day planned for Wednesday also didn't factor into his decision, because that can be rescheduled for another day.

"The coincidental fact that it was count day today has no bearing on the decision to hold school," he said.

Mainka bases snow day decisions on information from five sources:
-- The Swartz Creek Community Schools Transportation Department.
-- Four to six district employees who start driving around at 3 a.m.
-- Genesee County Road Commission updates on where plows and salt trucks have been.
-- Weather forecast information showing wind chills and what is expected through the day.
-- Other area school superintendents about their thoughts.

"Once I have all of the proper data to make a decision, we make the decision in time for us to avoid students and other drivers to be on the road," Mainka said. "I recognize that every snow day decision will not result in approval from everyone, but I wanted you to understand a little bit about how the decision is made."

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