GREENFIELD — When local weather enthusiast Duane Van Kley donated a $20,000 weather station to Greenfield Intermediate School, he gave Hancock County residents an eye to the sky.
For nearly six years, the WeatherBug station — dedicated in Van Kley’s honor after he died in 2011 — has been used to monitor weather in real time in Hancock County, acting as the only high-definition weather camera and lightning detector between Indianapolis and the Ohio state line.
Last spring, the camera stopped working, and replacing the equipment will cost the school $7,700, an amount that exceeds the school’s budget for equipment, said principal Jim Bever. Now, educators are looking to the community to help cover the cost of replacing the station its creator envisioned as both a safety device and educational tool.
WeatherBug is a national weather-monitoring network that includes data such as current temperature, high and low temperatures for the day, rainfall and wind speed. Before Greenfield’s station launched, data was taken from Indianapolis. The school’s station gave residents localized information, available online or by mobile app.
A GoFundMe page for the cause has raised $410 since launching, and Bever is asking community members to give what they can to help the school reach its goal.
“It sounds like a lot of money, but if we could just have 770 people go on and donate $10, we’d be there,” he said.
The station served residents but also boosted student learning about weather patterns.
It also aided safety plans. When the camera was working, educators could pull up the live footage of weather conditions, which meant educators didn’t have to step outside during severe weather to assess whether students need to take shelter, Bever said.
“It gives us advance notice,” Bever said. “When you’re trying to shelter 600 people, it takes time, so every moment counts.”
Van Kley, whose wife, Jan Van Kley, is a science teacher at Greenfield Intermediate, approached Bever about creating a weather station in 2010. The weather enthusiast had for years set up shop in what he and his family called “the situation room,” his own personal radar station at his house, to watch every moment of severe weather as it developed.
Van Kley wanted residents to have access to the same information he used to keep his family safe; he purchased the equipment and set it up for the school to make it possible. He maintained the station until his death.
As the only weather station in the area, Greenfield Intermediate’s program has provided area residents with relevant information about current conditions.
In class, teachers can use WeatherBug to show students how local weather changes, Jan Van Kley wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. They can see how pressure changes over time, how sunset and sunrise affect weather and watch how the sky changes over the course of a day, she wrote.
Educators use it to determine whether students should go out for recess. By visiting weatherbug.com, they can see what the exact temperature and windchill are in Greenfield, she said. The lightning detector installed at the school shows how close lightning is.
Organizers of the fundraiser say donations will help keep Greenfield safe while honoring Van Kley’s memory.
Greenfield Intermediate School is raising money to replace its weather camera, which broke last spring. The camera gives viewers current views of the sky to assess weather conditions and is the only one of its kind between Indianapolis and the Ohio state line.
Educators need $7,700 to purchase a new camera.
Visit gofundme.com and search Van Kley Memorial Weather Station to make a donation.