On snow days, Trent Lovette, executive director of operations for the Crowley school district, doesn't sleep in.
In fact, he doesn't sleep much at all when temperatures drop and sleet starts falling.
By 3 a.m. Wednesday, he and district transportation personnel were out driving bus routes to determine whether classes should be canceled.
When Superintendent Dan Powell makes the early-morning call on whether to close school for the day, it is based on Lovette's work, which actually began the day before, networking with other districts and looking at forecasts.
The decision is usually based on road conditions, and the 58-square-mile district includes everything from city streets in Fort Worth to rural roads in Johnson County.
But sometimes other factors are just as critical.
"What's a little different in this scenario is how cold it is," Lovette said. "Because we have neighborhood schools, we have kids that walk. It's a zero-degree wind chill factor. Bus riders would have to wait at the stops."
Wednesday's school closure was the fifth in a little more than a week for area schools.
Most of the time, officials say, parents are understanding about school closings. And districts try to quickly communicate their decision to give parents time to plan. But parents don't always greet the decision to cancel school with the same enthusiasm as their children.
"The difficult thing for parents in Northwest to understand is that if there's not ice on their driveway, there's ice in another part of the district, and we have to make the call for all of the district," said Lesley Weaver, spokeswoman for the 234-square-mile district.
Northwest covers 14 communities in Tarrant, Denton and Wise counties and offers bus service to all students.
To get the word out in a timely fashion, North Texas districts have found many ways to use technology to make the task easier and almost instantaneous.
Weaver uses a 20,000-number calling system, the district website, Facebook and Twitter to spread the word on closings.
"Last week we picked up 200 new Facebook fans," she said.
Other districts agreed that social media have become invaluable for quick messages to a large community.
Barbara Griffith, spokeswoman for the Fort Worth school district, said the recent bad weather has doubled the district's Facebook followers. "We have just at this moment passed 4,000 followers on Facebook," Griffith said Wednesday. "Two Fridays ago we were at 1,800."
Birdville spokesman Mark Thomas said the district has a range of options to communicate. He uses the district website, Twitter, Facebook, an electronic community newsletter and an electronic staff newsletter.
Thomas figures that he has made about 125,000 calls on the district system since last week.
He and his staff got a chance to refine their system last week when failed calls made to wrong or out-of-service numbers were corrected.
It's rapid communication on a grand scale.
Lovette's 5:30 cancellation call Wednesday was posted on the Crowley website by 5:35 a.m. thanks to spokesman Anthony Kirchner. He also recorded messages for the district's 16,000-number phone notification system and alerted news media outlets on their automated systems, all out to the public by 6 a.m.
"It takes me approximately 20 to 30 minutes to get that message communicated to everyone and posted everywhere," Kirchner said.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657