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SUPERINTENDENT'S COLUMN: Reviewing school cancellation decisions

With the recent cancellations of school due to snow and cold weather, I thought it would be a good time to once again provide a review the processes we follow in determining cancellations

of school and how these days are accounted for in our school calendar.

This past week has been unique with the extreme cold being a key factor. Many ask just how cold it needs to be to cancel school. We, like the majority of districts, do not have a set

temperature or wind chill set for closing school. Instead, we look at a number of factors such as

the timing of the cold or wind and the conditions of roads.

Snow events are also very similar in that the timing of a storm can really affect the conditions of roads. A storm that hits early in the morning can cause our local roadways to become very poor

and unsafe for our buses. Timing of the storm, winds, drifting, freezing rain, etc. all contribute

outside of the inches of snow we get. In all cases we gain information from National Weather

Service updates we receive, road condition and plowing reports, and other districts around us.

We also factor in our uniqueness of our district's size and make up. The fact is that we are a

large geographic district when compared to most. With this, conditions can be different across

regions of our district. We also must factor the terrain in some areas of our district with our river

valleys and coulee areas. Our new one route system certainly decreases the daily miles our buses are out on the road, but we still must consider that we are a large district.

We typically build in two snow make-up days yearly. This year we have June 5 and June 6 as make up days at the end of school year that will now be school days. Later in the spring we will evaluate the other two days we have had off, along with any other days to determine if those days are made up. Elementary, middle and high schools all have a state mandated minimum

of instructional minutes that must be met on a yearly basis. We have additional minutes above

and beyond the minimum but this can be a factor in determining make up days in extreme winters. We also must factor in the timing of the beginning of our summer school session in

June.

In recent years we have tried to start announcing decisions the night before where possible to

allow families to adjust childcare or work duties if possible. We will continue to do this, but this

is not possible in many circumstances. Student and staff safety is always the number one priority in making weather related decisions. Sometimes the weather hits us as predicted and

sometimes it changes for the better or worse. One thing I do know is that this will never change.