How is weather related school cancellation decided? Recently, I was asked by some community members what conditions are taken into consideration for the cancellation of school. I shared the information with them and I thought I would also post this information for others. Safety and the protection of our students in all circumstances is of the highest priority. There are multiple factors that have to be considered and we do not make this decision lightly. It is the single most difficult decision each year when we consider everyone arriving to schools safely. There are several factors that are collectively taken into consideration specifically as it relates to winter:
- Amount of snow accumulation
- Forecast for more snow, and any advisories or warnings
- Wind: impacting visibility, blowing and drifting of snow and wind-chill
- Actual air temperature and highs/lows for the day
- The conditions of roads and resulting impact of city and county snow removal, road crews from the townships, and our own snow removal crew
- The condition of sidewalks around the schools
- Time of day, ie. Evening events or activities.
When temperatures fall below 10 degrees air and -10 degrees wind-chill, students do not go out for recess or PE activities. If the temperature is forecast to stay below these marks for the entire day and not rise, then a decision to close school for the day is considered. New drivers to the road in the past two years have not experienced true winter driving conditions. We have been very fortunate not to have more extreme weather conditions that have impacted our roads. The first snowfall of any year reminds all of us the need to take extra precautions, drive slower-below any posted speed limits, and allow extra stopping distances at intersections. We do live in a winter climate at times and we have to be prepared to drive in these conditions when it is advised safe to do so. We also have to dress appropriately.
The other unknown piece about living in SE Kansas is that the weather conditions can change at any time. It can be safe during one time period in the morning and weather patterns can quickly change in the afternoon. The district administrators actually drive the roads in the morning typically beginning around 4:00am along with additional individuals from the district. We check the above elements. We coordinate with local transportation director for busses and other school districts in our county. We check advisories from the national weather centers and use several other web sources for wind chill and temperature. This doesn’t happen every morning but on days when weather is called into question.
The decision to close school is made by 6:00 a.m... Once this decision is made several calls are made to let our public know about the closing of our schools. You can sign up for the text alerts if you desire, just contact the district office at 620-252-6400 during the normal business hours. As the weather can change throughout the day, we do not typically cancel early and send students home unless we would be advised to so by the local authorities. There are a number of reasons why this is. This primarily has to do with the overall safety and supervision of students at home and parents being able to accommodate work schedules. Traffic patterns, police patrol, crossing guards etc. are coordinated with school start and dismissal times from a larger community perspective. The overall pedestrian and traffic follow is related to work and school start/end and is part of a larger overall transportation system. One change can have a great impact on another.
We also consider that if we don’t have school, there are students who have not eaten since lunch the day prior or week prior if the decision is on a Monday. Over 70% of our students rely on the district for some form of breakfast, lunch and even snacks after school. While you may not be aware, we send home backpacks with food for students over the weekend to ensure that they have something to eat with the support of our local organizations. We also consider the number of young children who are home alone who do not have supervision as their parent or both parents have to work when school is canceled. Schools have also become much more dependent upon each other. We share many different services. So, if all of our neighboring schools are closed, then there is a strong possibility that we will close as well. Certainly, if school is in session and parents decide not to have their children attend due to extreme weather, then we support that decision.