By Daron VanderHeiden, Superintendent
As we approach the Winter season in Minnesota, we also enter the associated dilemmas of snow days, late starts, and early dismissals.
As a kid, I remember how excited I got when hearing about the looming threat of snow storms. I was focused on the possibility of having NO SCHOOL, and the money-making potential I had with my shovel in hand. Of course, I had to do our family’s driveway and sidewalk first. How time has changed my view towards snowstorms. Rather than causing excitement, now the threat of bad weather brings with it a heavy weight.
Despite what you may hear in the community, there really is a rhyme and reason for the decisions that are made concerning opening and closing schools due to inclement weather conditions. I can assure you, it has nothing to do with funding, employee contracts, or make-up days, and everything to do with safety.
Weather is unpredictable and if you do not like the current weather in Minnesota, wait 20 minutes and it will change! Yes, that is true to some extent; however, current weather forecasting technologies are quite accurate. As we prepare for the possibility of bad weather, we will rely on this information to assist us in making sound decisions.
Roads. Who knows roads better than the people who have been plowing them for years? We confer with transportation personnel in a real-time setting as they are plowing or not plowing roads due to conditions. These snow plow drivers are a huge asset when making effective decisions.
North, south, east, and west. The weather and road conditions can vary significantly in different areas of the school district. Our district is expansive in size and that, too, makes a difference in decisions. The weather you and your distant neighbors on the other side of the district are experiencing, may be quite different.
Bus drivers. Nobody understands student transportation better than seasoned, veteran bus drivers. They understand the road conditions and the strengths and limitations of a school bus. We rely heavily on their opinions in making decisions.
Safety. Safety is the number one priority of the district. We want our students, families, and staff to be safe as they travel to and from school. We are always concerned about the safety of students and staff, and this concern heightens as the roads and weather conditions worsen.
Parents. Parents always have the final say in sending their children to school or not as it relates to bad weather. If you do not feel comfortable putting your child on the bus because of bad weather, we understand and will respect that decision. We ask that you contact your child’s school office and inform them of your decision. If you are a parent, please consider alternative plans for the potential of a late start, early dismissal, or school closure now when you have the time to communicate these plans with your children and the other trusted adults involved.
Most often, weather-related decisions about school closures are not ones that satisfy everyone. The final decision to close or open school rests with me. These decisions are not taken lightly. A system of procedures and information-gathering is used and the safety of our students and staff is always the bottom line.