Reflecting on the Polar Vortex
LeRoy CUSD #2 Winter Weather
The content of the list below has not changed since the orignal posting, but we thought it would be worth reflecting on the challenges associated with the recent cold weather. We don't ever expect full agreement with the decisions that we make, so our goal is to communicate our practice, to execute on that practice as we have communicated, to continually listen to concerns, and to adjust as appropriate.
First, adjustments that have been made to our CWA day policy as a result of this last cold snap. We will add a "wandering bus" to our plan in order to pick up any walkers that may be moving between the buildings who are not near one of our in-town bus stops, and we will add a -10 degree air temperature to our "likely cancel" criteria.
Second, why did we cancel on January 31, our CWA policy as designed actually engages all stakeholders in the decision making process, in that we actively promote the families right to make a decision for themselves as to whether they attend during inclement conditions, and then to allow any absence to be excused. Obviously, we have families that would sit on both sides of this decision. Consider the family that still has to go to work and does not have an age appropriate child to stay home. That family either has to miss work or put their children in a car and take them to day care. The only way we take that choice away is to close school. So, then why did we close, if we have such a policy, then we have an obligation to ensure that we can execute on the policy, our buildings have to be warm, we have to have an extra bus available, we have to have an activity bus available for shuttle service, we have to have enough drivers, and our buses have to be able to operate reliably. That is a lot of moving parts, which is why when we communicate we indicate the need to respond to potentially unknown variables. On Thursday morning, we had one bus fail to start because of a battery issue, we got it started and it ran without issue, all other buses started and ran fine. Our buildings were 67 degrees to 72 degrees, though we did have water line freeze in the weight room at the JHHS. After running our buses for an hour, we were not able to get the buses warm. The sustained low temperatures simply made the hard surfaces so cold, that our heaters could not get them warm enough. If we feel that we can't meet the promises necessary to execute on our policy, we will make the next appropriate decision.
Lastly, it is not unreasonable to question our decision, either decision being made under these conditions is going to be criticized. The commitment that we have made is to have a logical approach to policy, to communicate that to our stakeholders, and then to exectute as we have communicated. When cold is the only variable, we have reasonable ways to respond. If additional variables are introduced, blowing snow, cold buildings, etc, the decision is actually easier. Cancelling is easy when we simply can't get down our roads and our townships are not optimistic that they can keep up with the conditions. This is the most difficult and frustrating decision that we make, short of making December, January, and February the new summer vacation, we will continue to have to make this decision, and people will continue to fall on one side or the other. We will continue to inform you of the process and whenever possible allow each family to make the decision that they see most consistent with their values.
1. We would like to keep you informed of the decision-making process regarding the cancellation of school during the winter months. Please remember that, regardless of the district’s decision to have school in inclement weather, ultimately parents have the final say on whether or not a child attends school. We will support those decisions made in good faith, and will allow the absence to be an excused absence.
2. Generally, the latest we make decisions on school is around 5:30 a.m. However, it is very important for parents to have plans in place in case the decision needs to be made later. It is quite possible that bus or building issues could come up and not be discovered until after 6:00 a.m. In those cases, decisions on school attendance could be made at a later time.
3. Regarding extra-curricular events, practices and other school-related activities outside of the normal day, we prefer to exercise flexibility in these situations as opposed to an inflexible policy. Oftentimes, events scheduled in the evening could be held as conditions improve, as could practices. Some schools do not have that policy, and we will respect the wishes of the individual districts involved.
Again, we will support those decisions made in good faith out of the personal beliefs regarding their child’s safety.
Information considered when making decisions about canceling school.
1. Over 90% of our students are within 10 miles of our buildings. This makes us much more unique than many of our other rural districts around us. On virtually any day, we can get the overwhelming majority of our students to school. This is not always the case for staff that may live outside of the district, and sometimes road conditions would dictate an unreasonable risk for them to travel to school.
2. Empire Township road crews do a great job of keeping our roads clear and communicating with the school district.
3. Our diesel bus fleet now has a fuel blend that is better suited for the extreme weather. We believe the current mix to be very reliable, which gives us confidence that it is unlikely fuel will freeze, limiting the risk that your child could be stranded in extreme cold temperatures.
4. It is challenging to become completely acclimated to cold weather, but we are hopeful that students, parents, and staff are preparing their vehicles with emergency gear, making sure phones stay charged, and everyone dresses appropriately when going out in the elements. We understand bus stops can be an issue with children waiting out in the cold and ask parents to ensure their students are prepared or make other arrangements for transportation.
5. In cases of extreme cold like we had in the past, if work creates an early morning conflict for you and your child typically walks to school as a result or if your child is just a regular walker, we have opened our buildings earlier than normal to ensure your child’s safety. We will also consider that option this year.
6. The prevalence of mobile phones has significantly increased safety in the last 10 years.
7. We typically will not run delayed starts on cold weather days because as you delay the start, you increase the potential of students navigating the morning by themselves or actually being outside longer.
8. On days of extreme cold, our bus drivers allow extra time at stops so students do not have to stand and wait, but could gather from a waiting car or their homes.
9. Our key source of data is the NOAA Wind Chill Chart. When inside the 30 minute exposure area of the graph, attendance is questionable and dependent upon road conditions. When wind chills are likely to be to the right of that area, it is unlikely that we would attend.
Printable PDF Document: "Cold Weather Attendance Days"