North KC district leaders take a hands-on approach to see if roads are safe for school

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NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There are a lot of things a school district has to consider before calling a snow day.

For the North Kansas City School District, two of the main factors are the wind chill and temperature that kids face in the early morning hours when walking to school or waiting at the bus stop.

The other requires a more hands-on test. One that requires no studying, just experience driving in the snow.

"You're looking to see if there's bare pavement or if it's rough," said Michael McQuillen, the district's transportation director, "where you've got some ice and snow on top of the road way."

When snow and ice hit North Kansas City schools, McQuillen gets moving to see if the district's buses need to stay parked for a snow day.

"If my car can do it, I know that a school bus can do it," McQuillen said.

This former KCPD major and school bus driver takes the safety of his 16,000 kids who ride the bus seriously. He's one of a handful of people with the district putting roads to the test.

"If you were in your car, you would never stop before the crest of the hill, but our school buses have to do that all the time," McQuillen said.

McQuillen takes note of everything he sees off the beaten path, scanning small neighborhoods that school buses often travel.

Of course, in Missouri and Kansas things can change on a dime, for better or worse.

On the route, McQuillen and our FOX4 team came across a slide-off into a ditch.

"There's a pile up kind of going on down there," said Cordell Owens, a former Winnetonka High School student.

He remembers pleading with Superintendent Daniel Clemens for snow days.

"He gets around and he checks out the road and stuff. It's really all up to him but, you know, everybody wants a snow day at the end of the day," Owens said smiling. "So, we're all against him."

It's personal for McQuillen, too. He has two grandchildren that make up the 20,000 students in the district.

"I'm always very concerned about them, like I am every student that we have in our district," McQuillen said.

But McQuillen said it's a balancing act. The district only has a certain amount of snow days built in before make up days get tacked on at the end of the year.

But in the end, North KC canceled school Tuesday to keep those thousands of students safe.

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