Whenever I tell someone I’m a school superintendent, their immediate reaction is, wow you get to call snow days! This sounds great, but when you couple the responsibility of sending thousands of students, staff, and families into challenging weather conditions, that notion becomes a bit less attractive. Understanding that our district is responsible for transporting students to school in our district but also to Tolles Career and Technical Center in Plain City, several schools in Columbus and in West Liberty on a daily basis, makes you realize this decision is one of the most important ones I make as a superintendent.
After seven years as a superintendent, I now may be able to pass as an amateur meteorologist. I can tell you when conditions are likely for fog and when a refreeze might cause a problem. I can tell you with some certainty in our area, snow events of 4+ inches are likely to have implications for multiple days for school and extracurricular events. Most definitely, I can attest that each stakeholder in our district, whether or it be students, staff, parents, and community members alike, have a strong opinion one way or another on whether or not my decision was a good one. Since we have had several recent delays/cancellations and knowing the fact more challenging weather is in the forecast, it seems timely to shed a bit of light on how the decision to “school or not to school” is made.
Each morning throughout the school year, my alarm serenades me just after 4 am (Earlier depending on the forecast). At that time, I usually check weather conditions outside my window and the current conditions listed on local and national weather apps. If conditions or the forecast are concerning, I will drive the northern part of the district, while our district’s Transportation Supervisor, Kim Adams, will drive the southern part of the district. We communicate with each other, other district staff, other local districts, and local law enforcement in an attempt to determine, whether or not it is feasible to hold school. This decision is normally made by 5:45 am and communicated via social media, a district One Call, local news agencies, and posted on the district’s website.
In terms of snow and ice, often our backroads play an important part of this decision. Student drivers as well as our buses are chief considerations. When it comes to fog, we consider how widespread and dense the fog appears. The distance other drivers need to spot and safely stop for a bus picking up students is the most important factor. Windchill is a bit more tricky. The issues to consider are students walking to school or waiting at a bus stop for 15 minutes coupled with the time projected for frostbite to set in. The district in general considers a delay when forecast wind chills will eclipse -10 below and considers closing when real feel temperatures approach -20.
Our district mission is to provide a high quality education to prepare our students for the challenges and opportunities of an ever changing world. We want our kids to be at school, but sometimes because of the “challenges of this ever changing world,” it is necessary to delay or cancel classes and/or activities. Thanks for supporting us in these decisions as we work for the best interests of our students.
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