What Happens at My House on Snow Days Redux
(Read: Weather Days)
As many have noticed, weather patterns are changing, appearing more erratic and more extreme. We have advised families to always have a foul weather plan ready to implement as we respond to many nuances of weather influenced decisions.
At my house (and every superintendent’s home), on a “non-routine weather day,” I hop out of bed at 4 AM (meaning I did not sleep well and am likely already awake), and contact the Director of Transportation and Supervisor of Building and Grounds. (They’re not great sleepers either)! We review the current status – heat, roads, busses etc. If the weather is questionable I may also contact our local troopers and the First Selectman. The First Selectman also comes into play especially if road conditions are impacted by wind damage, limbs down or power outages. I also review the most current weather forecast through a web-based app and a retired military meteorologist that has volunteered to advise superintendents through the issuing of an email report. I then start to reach out to our local cadre of superintendents. We review each other’s readiness and almost always promise to call back to confirm our decisions. Of course, our first assessment is based on the readiness of the high schools, especially NFA. As Norwich public schools goes, so goes NFA. This has a significant influence on us because the high school routes must run first.
While ruminating our four AM status utmost in our minds is student safety, family routines - especially for parents that work, and also staff that are about to get on the road. The first school bus typically leaves the yard at 5:45 AM. That means that our mechanic, Director, and drivers need to be at the garage no later than 5 AM. Thus their capacity to drive safely from home must be considered. It is important to have a decision on or before 5:30 AM. Of course, deciding the night before is the best, but not always practical. The tension between New England weather patterns, having 184 days of instruction, and staff, family and student obligations is taught. In the end there is coordination with many aspects of our greater learning community and municipal resources.
After the decision is made we implement our media blitz. A Blackboard connect message is sent. TV, radio and media posts are implemented. I post on Twitter. Gloria covers the web page and other local outlets. The information is sent to the media, such as WFSB and WCTY, who list the school cancellations or delays. Of course, we have a backup phone tree that we can use as well.
If you see NFA listed, Preston Public Schools will have the same cancellation or delay of usually 2 hours. If Preston has a delay or cancellation, all schools we transport to are automatically on 2-hour delay or cancellation for transportation. It is very rare that we would have a 90-minute delay, folks seem to struggle with the math. One hour delays tend to have little impact so 2-hour delays seem much cleaner.
None of this considers the dynamics of “routine” daily adjustments that must be made based on vehicle performance or students changing addresses or driver absence. This is handled with expertise by our transportation director.
We encourage all staff not to make predictions to students on days before a storm arrives about school closings or delays. We live in New England where the weather can change rapidly from snow to no snow, ice to no ice, depending on the temperature.
In the end, our purpose is to have our children and staff be as safe and as comfortable as possible, so that they can experience undistracted positive learning in an environment that is secure, warm, and dry, lack of sleep notwithstanding!