Something to think about...by Superintendent Westerberg
The weather the last week in January has provided me the topic for this article. One of the joys (notice the sarcasm) of being a superintendent is making a decision about school closings. It’s prime territory for second-guessing by everyone. Since it’s fresh on my mind, I’ll share some of what goes into the decision on whether or not to alter the school schedule due to inclement weather.
Superintendents rely heavily on weather services, especially the National Weather Service. When adverse weather is in the forecast, the NWS sends emails detailing the forecast and conducts webinars with excellent details on their predictions. They even provide the level of confidence they have in their predictions. Another great resource is other superintendents. When snow or ice is in the forecast, calls are made to school districts where the storm has already started to learn what’s happening there. Schools to the north and west are typically contacted most often during the winter.
When road conditions are in question, the transportation director from Vision and I begin checking roads at 4:00 a.m. with the goal of making a decision by 5:00 a.m. There is a long list of people to contact when a decision is made to delay or cancel school. Parents are notified by email sent through Infinite Campus, a text message for those who have signed up, the district’s Facebook page and website, and the four television networks from the Twin Cities.
No superintendent wants to be the only one who has made a call different than the neighbors. But, some days are more challenging than others and each district has unique situations that affect the decision. The forecast for frigid temperatures on January 29 and January 30 made it an easy decision to cancel school, however, January 31 was more challenging. With the weather services predicting temperatures improving and winds calming throughout the day, a decision needed to be made whether to start late or cancel. A late start would have still put students in near 30 below wind chills on the way to school, so I chose to cancel the day.
When a decision is made to cancel school, all activities are cancelled and the buildings are closed. This also results in second-guessing when the weather improves during the day.
Rest assured, significant thought is put into determining if the school day should be adjusted due to weather. Ultimately, whether everyone agrees with the decision or not, safety is the only concern that is considered.