Severe Weather Alerts

DMPS Explains Reasons for Not Cancelling School, Admits it May Have Been Wrong Decision

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Hundreds of school districts across the state delayed or cancelled classes due to Tuesday's ice storm, but the state's largest district--the Des Moines Public School District--wasn't on that list.

"We have a high bar," says district spokesperson Phil Roeder.

He says the district's superintendent looks to see what surrounding school districts are doing, then has the operations teams survey the roads before making a decision.

"So about 5:30 a.m. or 5:45 a.m. is our make our break time, and if it's passed that time it's a school day for Des Moines," Roeder says.

That decision to remain open made it hard for some students to get to school. Several buses with students on board were involved in accidents due to icy conditions. No injuries were reported, but the district admits starting school on time may have been a bad idea.

"It might have been different with hindsight. We might have done a two-hour delay had we known then what we know now," Roeder says.

Many DMPS students use DART as transportation to get to school. The district says DART's route schedule had nothing to do with why classes were not delayed for the day, as many parents suspected.

School officials say the weather also isn't the sole determining factor in whether or not school will be closed; it also has to do with the well-being of students.

"For a lot of our students, this is going to be the safest place they are going to be during the day. It's going to be the warmest place they are going to be. It's the one place we know they are going to be able to get two meals," he says. Nearly three-fourths of students in the district are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

While the district stresses safety as it top priority, officials also remind parents to keep their kids home if they don't agree with the district's decision.