Commonwealth Journal

February 13, 2014

Bad weather in neighboring counties closes SCC

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — On a sunny — if brisk — day in Pulaski County, with not a drop of snow on the ground, it was a little jarring to call the number for Somerset Community College and hear this prerecorded message:

“Somerset Community College, all locations, is closed ... due to inclement weather.”

In Somerset? What inclement weather?

Chatter among local observers (and social media users) pondered what seemed like a slightly silly closure on its face, particularly considering none of the local public school K-12 systems — including normally snow-wary Pulaski County Schools — were out on Thursday.

However, according to Dr. Jo Marshall, president of SCC, there was a very good reason to call off classes —uniformity.

“We have six locations,” she said. “We have the same faculty teaching (at multiple locations in some cases). They’ll teach in Somerset and then drive to McCreary County. The students do the same thing. They take classes on multiple campuses.”

Additionally, she noted, some students take courses from one location via a live television feed beamed in from another SCC site.

Marshall said that in past years, SCC would put out word that one individual campus might be closed for weather, even if others weren’t. That proved confusing, however.

“Say the McCreary Center was closed, people didn’t know if they would have class on the Somerset campus. If they lived in McCreary and couldn’t get here, they didn’t know if their absence would be excused,” said Marshall.

“I don’t know that we had any wrecks, but we had situations that resulted in enough to scare us,” she added. “We (college leadership) met and said that if weather is an issue and we have to close a campus, then all of them will close.”

On Thursday, while the conditions in Somerset were downright tropical compared to what they’ve been in many days this winter — up into the 40s, temperature-wise — other areas served by SCC didn’t fare as well. London in Laurel County caught a piece of the winter storm that arose angrily from the south to batter the East Coast, and McCreary did too — the National Weather Service office in Jackson, Ky., had a report of an inch and a half of snow in Pine Knot, and that’s just what they were made aware of from the field.

Marshall said this policy has been in place for close to three years approximately, but Thursday marked the first time it truly seemed particularly unusual, given the weather conditions in Somerset.

“Yes, we had some angst about it this morning,” said Marshall. “We knew people here would be upset about it, we would have had people upset if we didn’t (close the campuses).”

However, it wasn’t even the first time this winter that one clear area has been closed for the sake of another. There was one day when Somerset had snow, and the Clinton County campus closed even though there was nary a drop of precipitation there.

“My operations manager gets up at 5 a.m.; he has someone at each location,” said Marshall. “They call and talk, then he calls me and Dr. (Tony) Honeycutt (SCC Provost) and we have a conference call, and he gives us a report of the weather. If it looks not to be impossible (to travel in safely), we go (to class). If it looks dangerous, we don’t. (Thursday) morning, it looked dangerous in London and McCreary.”

On Thursday evening, SCC went ahead with its scheduled plans of hosting a youth leadership forum with local high schools.

But as for regular business at SCC, Marshall knows the school made the right call on Thursday.

“We cannot risk safety in a situation like this,” she said.