Written by Dr. John Bierwirth Friday, 26 November 2010 00:00
As winter approaches, the thought of possible snow storms has reminded me of the importance of reviewing our practices regarding school closures and delayed openings.
• Snow Days
If weather conditions are such that it is difficult or impossible for district staff to clear driveways and paths at our buildings, for buses to be able to travel safely through the Herricks community in a timely fashion, for the vast majority of staff to be able to get to work on time or for students to be able to get safely from their homes to school either on foot or in a car, we will close school for the day. These decisions are usually made between 4 and 5:30 a.m. Included in the decision-making process are the Director of Transportation, the Director of Facilities and myself. We also consult with our counterparts in neighboring school districts and with the police regarding road conditions.
• Delayed Openings
In some cases a decision may be made to delay the start of school rather than close school for the day. Delayed openings may be for 1 hour, 90 minutes or 2 hours. In the event of a delayed opening, everything is moved back by the time of the delay. For example, if a school was due to open at 9 a.m., a one hour delay would mean that school would open at 10. If a building had an 8:30 a.m. starting time under normal circumstances, the opening time would be moved to 9:30.
Generally delayed openings are used when weather conditions are improving rapidly. The reason for the delay is to allow highways and roads throughout the community to be cleared. We would not call for a delayed opening if there was a question regarding the ability of various crews to have highways and roads cleared in time.
As soon as a decision is reached, a special announcement will be place on the home-page of the Herricks Schools website (www.herricks.org). Simultaneously, an e-mail message will be sent to everyone who has signed up for the Emergency Notification Listserv through the district’s website. (If you have not already done so, we urge you to sign up for this emergency notification listserv, giving us both you home and business e-mail addresses. For more information on the Emergency Notification Listserv, go to www.herricks.org and click on the “Click Here to sign up for Herricks E-News.)
Additionally, as in the past, telephone chains will be started and notification sent to the following TV and radio stations:
Cablevision Channel 12
WNYW — Channel 5
WCBS (880 AM or 101.1 FM)
WHLI (1100 AM)
WINS (1010 AM)
WKJY (98.3 FM)
In the past it has often taken 30 to 45 minutes for some radio and TV stations to broadcast notices submitted by Herricks and other school districts. Accordingly, the website or emergency listserv is the fastest way to receive notification.
• Special Circumstances
During weather related emergencies there are often areas within any community in which there are special circumstances. If we make a judgment that it is appropriate to open schools we recognize that there may be some areas in which it is not safe for children to go to school or where, due to special circumstances, the roads are impassable. We expect every family to make a judgment whether their children should stay home even if schools are open. Should this be the case the family should simply call the school and indicate that their children will be unable to attend school due to special circumstances. No further explanation is necessary.
• Early Dismissal
Since it is very difficult to insure that there will be someone home to receive a student, most districts, including Herricks, do not have early dismissal. Past attempts to do this have proven that it is very difficult to reach all families, potentially leaving some children stranded for a period of time. Accordingly, should a snow storm develop rapidly during the day, we will maintain a regular schedule. This may mean that buses may take longer and that students may arrive at bus stops somewhat later than usual. Practice has shown that this is preferable to having a student arrive early to a locked or empty house. On the other hand, parents always retain the right to pick their child up early if they feel that that is the safer thing to do. If that is your preference, simply call the office of your school and advise them when you will pick up your child(ren).
Decisions about whether to close or open school are not easy. Although weather forecasts have improved substantially over the last 10 to 15 years, accurately predicting the direction and severity of a storm is still very difficult. For Herricks, as for every school district, the tendency is to err on the side of caution. At the same time, we want schools to be open when we can.