HELENA – Helena School District leaders decided to release students early Thursday and cancel classes for Friday, over concerns about approaching winter weather.

Superintendent Jack Copps said they were concerned icy conditions and gusty winds would make the roads too dangerous to send buses out.

“There are moments when you don’t take chances, and this is one of those moments,” he said. “We aren’t going to take a risk of somebody potentially being in a serious car accident, somebody potentially being hit by another car, somebody breaking bones and that sort of thing because of slippage.”

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Copps said the district consulted with local law enforcement and with First Student, the company that operates Helena school buses, before making the decision. He said, if they waited until Friday to cancel school, they were concerned some families wouldn’t hear the news in time.

“Sometimes we make decisions at 6 o’clock in the morning as to whether or not we’re going to have school,” said Copps. “The unfortunate part of that is a lot of students don’t get the message and they show up.”

District leaders say they are tentatively planning to make up the lost day of classes on June 7.

In the East Helena School District, leaders took the opposite approach. They kept students in class as usual Thursday and plan to hold classes on Friday.

Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer said he didn’t want to send students home in poor conditions, when parents might not have been available to pick them up on short notice. He said he’s confident county and state road crews will be able to make driving conditions safe for his buses by Friday morning.

“In Montana, this kind of thing happens,” said Whitmoyer.

If conditions change and East Helena schools are closed, Whitmoyer said the district will inform parents through their website, social media and direct messages.

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