Our district staff understands that our decision to open or close schools, offer a two-hour delayed start, or resort to an early release in bad weather has a big effect on families. Also, we understand that our students are better served by being in school – both academically and socially. As always, our top priority is the safety of our students.
HOW DO WE MAKE OUR DECISION?
When bad weather affects the area, we make the decision to open/close schools or modify the school day schedule based upon a careful analysis of all relevant factors, such as:
Information on road conditions from transportation staff and from local law enforcement and road crews; We must give careful consideration to the most dangerous roads in the district; they can be treacherous, even if your street looks clear.
Amount of accumulated snow and ice;
Whether precipitation is expected to continue throughout the day;
Temperature and wind chill (wind chills at or below -15°F during key walking and waiting-for-bus times are given special consideration. See the National Weather Service Wind Chill Frostbite Chart here: https://www.weather.gov/ama/WindChill);
Impact on our transportation fleet;
Weather predictions (including those from a weather alert service);
Building conditions (such as whether there is electricity and heat); and
Parking lot conditions.
WHO MAKES THE DECISION?
As Superintendent of Schools, I am responsible for the final decision, based upon the factors and recommendations from the Transportation Manager and others. We have a very large district. Weather and road conditions may be fine in one portion of the district, but not in another. In such instances we must close school or modify the school day for the entire district.
WHEN IS THE DECISION MADE?
Whenever possible, I strive to make the decision to close the night before, though the decision may come as late as 5:30 a.m. School closing information is traditionally available on radio and TV stations, posted to our website, and sent electronically to families of students enrolled in the district. Keep in mind that unusual weather conditions may force us to make the decision after this time. Stay tuned to television and radio stations, as well as our web site and your various electronic communication sources for closing or delay announcements. The first place I will post an announcement to close or delay is on my X account (formerly Twitter) @DrJoeClark_WCS and Instagram drjoeclark_wcs.
I RECEIVE EMAIL NOTICES BUT SOMETIMES THEY ARRIVE LATER IN THE DAY. WHY IS THAT?
Phone calls, text messages and emails are sent as soon as we make our weather-related decisions. However, there may be a delay in when you actually receive your email due to controls that many Internet service providers have in place to prevent an overload to their email systems. Unfortunately, this is out of our control and one of the main reasons we make the information available through several communication methods. Please be sure to read our “Getting Connected” information online to make sure you can receive all three direct notifications.
WILL WE CLOSE SCHOOL IF CONDITIONS WORSEN?
Even if weather conditions worsen, we cannot reverse our decision in the morning without endangering students. Once we make the decision to open the schools, many parents rely on it and leave for work. If we then send students back home, many will return to unsupervised bus stops and empty houses. If conditions worsen during the school day, we may need to have an early dismissal or cancel afternoon kindergarten classes, but we will give as much notice as possible through the previously mentioned means.
Although my staff and I do our absolute best in this process, we know that often no perfect decision exists. If you do not feel that it is safe for your child to get to school, use your best judgment as to whether or not he or she should attend. Also, please discourage teenagers from driving in bad conditions and offer them alternatives as weather conditions worsen.
We hope that this explanation helps everyone understand the process that our district staff uses to make the best possible decision for all in our district. Thanks for your continued support of the Westerville City Schools.
Dr. Joe Clark