Winter Weather Blues
Do you have winter blues? Are you tired of the cold or the darkness? Are you ready to have sunshine on your way to work and on your way home? Sunset is 6:16 p.m. today. That is two minutes longer than yesterday. With winter comes the possibility of bad weather. This blog is to address some of the comments we have heard about winter weather in our area, and how our affiliate agencies handle weather delays or cancellations. Also, to answer questions about how we handle delays and such at Marimor School. Hopefully this can give a bit of perspective, as we judge what we feel should be done during inclement weather.
As some of you may know, the Allen County Board of DD no longer has buses. Students at Marimor School are transported to school each day in a variety of ways. A student may come by a bus from their home school district, an uplift van from the RTA, a parent, or several other options. Because we serve children who are medically fragile and have other extensive needs, we know parents make a decision about school as they see fit on inclement days. When considering whether to delay or cancel Marimor School, I go by an average. If more than half of our students will be on a delay due to their home school, then we will delay. Lima City Schools play a big part in our decision, as about 36% of our children are from Lima. We do not make these decisions lightly, knowing that safety is important – and yet parents need to work. So far this year, we have missed four days at Marimor School, and we will continue to monitor the impact on our school schedule as we move through the end of the year.
For adults with developmental disabilities, the decisions are far more complicated. For instance, Marimor Industries is separate from Marimor School, so when listening to delays and closings, it is important to pay close attention to which one is being named. We know that parents depend on day services – like Marimor Industries, Club RMS, Goodwill Easter Seals and others – to be open so they can work and have their loved one cared for during the day. We also know that many adults with developmental disabilities need the income that Marimor Industries and We Can Too provide to meet their living expenses. In the vocational habilitation setting, adults with developmental disabilities are demonstrating good work habits, and dependability is important. Coming to work, if they have a safe ride, is important. Any parent or caregiver can choose to keep an adult home from day services. It is a caregiver’s decision to make. However, we respect the right of all others to work and earn money. Each person can make that decision. We understand working parents appreciate having options.
Day services sites, including those operated by Benchmark Human Services, Bittersweet, Capabilities, COR Services, Goodwill Easter Seals, Friends of Leroy Brown, Marimor Industries and We Can Too, make their own decisions for inclement weather. They use the local media to make these announcements, and on average have far fewer delays and cancellations due to their unique situations. They have their own factors to consider, since they transport primarily in vans. Every director, whether at a day site or a work center, weighs many factors when making these decisions.
There’s one more significant issue to consider: many group homes or waiver homes where multiple people live do not have enough staff to fill the day shifts, if day services or work sites are closed. This has been a challenge for many years, as homes are often not staffed during the day; it is now much more concerning with the staffing shortages in our field. Our provider community does an excellent job managing closures, but remember that some staff somewhere is being asked to work overtime or give up their own schedule when people cannot go to their regularly scheduled day activities.
None of this is to say that safety is not important. It very much is. This blog is not about when Allen County roads are on a level advisory that makes travel dangerous. Even then, many of us must come to work and use extreme caution – but we exercise our right to make that decision based on our physical needs, length of travel to work, and what our job needs from us. It is very important that some people stay home, which they have the right to do. And it is very important that some people get to work, which they have the right to do. We respect that the decisions being made are very complicated for hundreds of people and one shoe does not fit all.
As one final note, I want to mention that even if Marimor School is closed, the Allen County Board of DD is open and operating. We have many staff beyond the school, and it is business as usual for us. We are located at 2500 Ada Rd, here to serve our community and provide the best services we can. Please call if you have any questions about any of this information. I am happy to talk about it.
By: Theresa Schnipke