STEVENSVILLE — At 4:30 a.m. Monday, when most students were still snuggled in their warm beds, Lakeshore Schools Superintendent Phil Freeman was driving from Stevensville to Baroda, checking out the condition of the roads.

“Winter’s here, if you haven’t figured that out this morning,” Freeman told Lakeshore school board trustees Monday night. “... It was pretty easy driving around this morning.”

He said that’s why he didn’t call a snow day Monday even though it was snowing in some places.

Freeman said he’s a morning person and doesn’t mind the drive.

“It gives me the opportunity to tell people that I wasn’t guessing. I was actually out on the road,” he said.

Freeman said Monday night he anticipates he will be driving on the roads again this morning, because of the forecast.

While driving, he said he checks to see if he can go the speed limit and how long it takes him to stop at intersections.

“I always wonder if someone’s going to find me in a cornfield somewhere because I miscalculated either my speed or my stopping distance,” he said.

Freeman said his route takes him from Stevensville to Baroda, over to Bridgman and then back to Stevensville. 

“I tell you, the conditions can be quite different in the three corners of that little triangle that I make,” he said after the meeting. “I have to make sure we’re keeping our kids as safe as we possibly can.”

He said Nick White, director of transportation, maintenance and facility, drives the other half of the 57-square-mile district along Hollywood Road on the more rural roads, where they see a lot more drifting and ice.

“Sometimes visibility is tough out there with all of the open fields,” he said. 

Freeman said he doesn’t know if any other school district superintendents are out driving the roads on questionable mornings. But he believes every district has somebody who drives the roads on days that the conditions might be hazardous.

In addition, he said superintendents call each other, along with local police departments and the Berrien County Road Commission, to compare notes on the condition of the roads.

“As you know here, something that’s happening here might not be happening five miles away because of lake effect snow,” he said. “If the (snow) band isn’t hitting you, you might be one of the lucky ones that day.”

Freeman told board trustees that new this year for Lakeshore schools is a two-hour delay policy. He said that option will be used if the roads are bad in the morning but are expected to rapidly improve.

He said he doesn’t expect to use this option very often. During his seven years with the district, he said he only knows of two times when surrounding districts called for a two-hour delay. And in one of those cases, school officials ended up closing school all day, anyway.

Freeman said parents are notified of school closures via texts, emails and automated phone calls.

He said he also posts snow days on his Twitter account.

School budget

Chief Financial Officer Tracy Althouse told trustees the good news that the district gained five students, instead of losing an anticipated 20 students, bringing district enrollment this year to 2,795 students.

In addition, she said the state increased per pupil funding by $240, which is higher than the $200 per pupil increase she had budgeted for.

On the down side, she said the $25 increase for each high school student – approved last school year – was not continued this school year.

Overall, trustees approved a budget amendment estimating that the district’s general fund balance will be $2.7 million on June 30, 2020 – up from the projected fund balance of $2.5 million that was approved earlier in the year.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege