Staying Safe on Snow Days

Kim Watkins, Editor-In-Chief

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With snow-filled pathways, early closures and a season of unfortunate weather, many Southwest Minnesota State University students complain that snow days aren’t always for the best. No classes and sleeping in are nice enough, but many students on campus face the real issues of severe weather.

No one understands these issues more than students with disabilities, with some who have faced being snowed-in on campus with worries of transportation to and from the school and the dorms, early closures of school services and of their general safety.

As most students are aware, moving the snow from the paths and parking lots is no easy job when a blizzard strikes; however, it is the length of time, especially on weekends, that it takes for the snow to be cleared that has students with disabilities stuck, with a concern of not being able to get food or attend class if a snow day has not been declared.

According to Facilities and Physical Plant manager, Cyndi Holm, and Grounds and Roads Maintenance Supervisor, Jeff Jennings, a total of four removers are on hand when there is snow, with one working on the roads while the remaining three work on the sidewalks and paths. GMW’s [general maintenance workers] also clear about twenty feet out from dorm doors. There are specific snow routes designated for clearing times (can be found on SMSU website under Campus Life – University Public Safety – Snow Removal Routes).

“With wind, [these routes] can be closed up within ten minutes of cleaning. It takes another 30-40 minutes until we can get back to it. If it is bad and we cannot see, we will pull out [because of the possibility of] hitting someone or something,” Jennings said.

Another worry stemming from snow days, possibilities of early closures, specifically Food Services, leaves many wondering how to get food.

“We will make sure we are meeting the needs of students. We aren’t going to close down. The Residential Restaurant will always be open and our retail [Food Court] will be open [considering safety of staff]. If there are students on campus that are available and part of the staff, we will remain open. In making decisions, [we want] what’s best for students,” said Neil Hlebichuk, Food Service director.

Regarding travel altogether, Pam Ekstrom, Disability Services director, urges students to keep their safety in mind.

“We have to keep our own safety first. [For students with disabilities]…call ahead, call Public Safety and ask for an escort…go with another student,” Ekstrom said.

Ekstrom states that there are always people willing to help, but there is a higher risk when leaving dorms at nighttime due to less people and slightly worse conditions.

Public Safety director, Mike Munford, states that they will escort and assist those who need it.

“We ask the staff to be vigilant. They have routine rounds and are there to assist. Our staff works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Public Safety will escort and assist during snow days. We are here to serve our community,” said Mike Munford, Public Safety director.

For assistance or an escort, Public Safety can be reached 537-7252. If the call does not go through the office, it will be rerouted to the Lyon County Police Department. They will radio Public Safety and inform them of where assistance is needed.

Staying aware of severe weather and contacting services that are needed can go a long way, especially when a snow day decides to hit.