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To go or not to go

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By Greg Schultz

 Depending on what indicator you are looking at, wooly worms, farmers almanac, squirrels nesting higher in the trees or other homespun prognostications, one thing is guaranteed —  winter is right around the corner.  And unfortunately winter brings the chance of snow.

The snow day decision is one of the most unpopular decisions a superintendent can make. Half of our constituents will like the decision, the other half won’t. Knowing that, when we have to make a decision about whether or not to close, I want to emphasize our number one priority is the safety of students and staff. With that in mind I did want to share with you the steps we take to make sure that decision is the best decision that can be made with the facts we have at the time.

When we hear a forecast of possible snow, we start implementing our plan. We have a team of three who closely monitors the weather and set their alarms for 3 a.m. They check the radar, consult with local meteorologists and then either reset their alarms for an hour later or start getting dressed to drive the roads. 

When we make the decision to start our engines, the team expands to six and everyone hits the roads by 3:30 a.m.,  All areas of the county are covered by this experienced team as they check the routes our buses travel.  By 5 a.m. they convene at the transportation department, discuss their findings and come to consensus on the recommendation they will make to me. I then make the call to cancel, delay or go as scheduled based on their information. Once that decision is made we go to the next phase of the plan if we decide to cancel or delay: public announcements.

We send out notifications first through Infinite Campus Messenger, then Facebook, Twitter and our website. Our goal is to have that notice out by 5:15 a.m. We then notify the media so we can get that information out on TV and radio. We email all staff and notify them of the status as well.  

This plan varies a bit if we have a continuous snow event that lasts for a couple of days. We will try to make the announcement in as timely a fashion that we can so that parents can make childcare plans, but keep in mind, it’s not always easy to make that call early. We also ask you keep in mind that occasionally, we have to make a decision based on a forecast. And since meteorology is not an exact science, sometimes that forecast doesn’t pan out. Please remember we are doing our best to do what’s best for students.

Other items of interest for parents concerning snow days.

• School based after school enrichment centers may be open. Each site will make an independent decision based on the conditions of the school parking lots and the ability of their workers to get to the site. The centers will notify parents individually. Please ask your site’s director how you will be notified.

• Extracurricular activities will be reviewed on an individual basis by the school principal in conjunction with central office input. There have been many instances where roads were too bad for school to begin but were clear by the afternoon.  

In closing, if you have a snow dance I ask that you refrain from that practice.  I would love to go this year without missing a day for weather, because no one wants to be in school in mid-June.

 

 

 

Greg Schultz is the superintendent of Oldham County Schools.