City Of Topeka, USD 501 Unclear Over Clearing Streets Around Schools

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A storm was brewing Thursday over who should have cleared the streets around Topeka Public Schools' buildings before students headed back to class.

Several parents described unplowed snow and stuck vehicles outside several district buildings. Many parents also waited in long lines to drop off their children, as traffic was slowed by vehicles sliding and tires spinning trying to navigate the streets.

With such conditions, they said, the district should have decided against bringing students back to school Thursday.

By late morning, the streets were snow-packed, but plowed. Still, parents wanted to know why it wasn't a priority sooner.

City of Topeka communications director Suzie Gilbert told 13 News that the city does "provide enhanced salt treatment to USD 501 and they maintain the immediate streets around the school."

That was news to district officials. USD 501 spokesperson Ron Harbaugh says the district does have a verbal agreement with the city to clear some streets around a few of its schools, but he has never known the district to have responsibility for the streets around all of its buildings. He says the district clears its parking lots and the sidewalks around its buildings.

Harbaugh said district officials considered the city's progress in clearing the streets in deciding whether school would be in session. He says district leaders actually call contacted the city Wednesday afternoon and was assured crews would be working around the clock to clear the streets.

The city says its crews have been out round the clock. With the magnitude of the 13-inch snowfall, work clearing main routes didn't finish until Thursday morning. Even before the storm, city street maintenance superintendent Ron Raines had warned it would likely take 56 hours before crews could reach all the streets. Residential streets, where many schools are located, generally are the last areas plows clear.

Gilbert says the city did send plows out to streets around the schools when the district contacted them mid-morning Thursday. Harbaugh says the district does plan to meet with the city to prevent any future misunderstandings.