Hudson Superintendent Explains How Snow Day Decisions Are Made
Hudson School District Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten and Deputy Director Nancy Sweet take into account several factors when deciding whether to cancel classes.
So far this winter, Hudson School District schools have been closed three times because of weather — Dec. 9 for snow, Jan. 22 for cold and Jan. 29 for ice.
Last month's closures have prompted much criticism of the superintendent. Here is a sampling from Hudson Patch comments and Facebook posts:
Dratsum (8:46 am on Jan. 22): Too cold? What's too cold? To dangerous to let kids cstand around waiting for the bus in shorts with no hat or gloves? Or will the taxpayer-supplier Ipads freeze up in this weather? Maybe kids can't text with mittens on?
When I grew up in Hudson, school was closed once for being too cold and it was -30. That didn't mean I go out of doing my paper route before school.
More proof of the expanding nanny state. Perhaps they move the busing line out to two miles so kids can keep warm by walking? That might also help bring down the obesity epidemic.
Jana Kodesh (8:41 am, Jan. 29): Hudson School district has too many closed snow days. If I can bring my 2 year old to daycareI am pretty sure grade schoolers and high schoolers can go to school today.
tommyboy (10:07 am, Jan. 29): Yes it may have been slightly more dangerous than a normal day, but most of us are thinking of what we went through to get to school. Let's face it we have become 'weather wimps'. Made worse be the talking heads on local weather going on and on about 3 days below zero. Hello this is Minnesota and Wisconsin, it's cold here in the winter. (Just not as cold as it used to be).Vested Interest (10:22 am, Jan. 29): Did I miss something?? Were roads closed? It looks to me like some superintendents didn't feel like driving to work today so they called it off claiming it was for the safety of our children. Nice play since most of us had already gotten to work on those same roads.
Sara Tolbert (7:16 am, Feb. 1): It would at least be appreciative if they were consistent in choosing. Today was way colder than the last time they canceled school for "cold" reasons.
Multiple people chimed in with Hudson Patch comments and Facebook posts in support of the district's decisions:
Passport House Cleaners Lange (6:40 am, Jan. 22): My Mom has been a school bus driver for 37 years. Days like today when schools have stayed open (when we were young) made her crazy. She always worried if some kid did not make it to the bus stop or started walking back home, etc that a disaster would happen. That disaster is just not worth it.
Christopher Gagne (8:26 am, Jan. 29): smart move. Roads are slick, even with new winter tires.
Kendra Waldroff (8:54 am, Jan. 29): Good call. Black ice everywhere.Ryan (10:39 am, Jan. 29): I am sure it was a risk calculated conclusion. Have you been outside? People are falling just in their driveways. You are so great because you made it to work, and you are so tough because YOU think the school should stay open. Become someone involved in these decisions then. Be involved in your children's lives instead of passing them onto school. Sorry that you all hate your children enough to risk their lives in this weather over you working from home, or *gasp* taking a sick day. Welcome to rural school districts, want the assurance that school won't be cancelled? Move to a major city.
Kelly Ripplinger (10:31 am, Jan. 30): WOW, Really??
All this over a school day being canceled for the safety of everyone involved!
Thank You Hudson School District for putting safety first!
You know how it is, Damned if you do, Damned if you dont!
Thank You for your thoughtful decision of safety once again.
This month, the superintendent issued the following column to help explain how such school cancellation decisions are made:
Decisions to close school, delay opening, or release students early due to inclement weather are always made with the safety of all students foremost in our minds. Winter weather in Wisconsin is challenging and even many school days create a level of unsafe conditions if precautions are not taken. Serving young students who are less able to fend for themselves to inexperienced High School students who drive to school adds to the challenge when the weather is questionable. The Superintendent and District Deputy Director confer about whether or not to close school. The district is very conscious of the impact closings have on students and families. Since learning time and being in school are so highly valued, these decisions are difficult and are made after significant deliberation and consideration of numerous factors with safety on top of the list.
Below are primary factors the district considers in determining whether to close, delay, or release students early from school:
- Information gathered on conditions from multiple weather forecast authorities, Safe-Way Bus Company, and road crews.
- Road conditions throughout the district. Because of the size of the district, roads may be clear in one area and travel elsewhere is hazardous.
- Winter weather warnings for severe temperature and wind chill from the National Weather Service are given greater consideration than advisories.
- Whether conditions are expected to worsen or how soon they are predicted to improve.
- School conditions such as whether the buildings have electricity, heat and water.
- Whether parking lot and sidewalk conditions can be cleared in time for the opening of school.
- Communication with surrounding districts about their plans to stay open or close, even though the final decision for Hudson schools is made locally.
In the event that schools are open and weather conditions worsen during school hours, a decision to close early will be made by midday. This is probably the very worse for families and is only made if there is a heightened level of concern that later conditions will be deteriorating to a point where transportation home seems increasingly unsafe. In this case, we make every effort to make personal contact with elementary students’ families before they are sent home.
The district makes every effort to gather information and inform families and staff as early as possible and before 6:00 a.m. for school delays or closings. The Alert Now emergency communication system for families and staff along with information posted on district and school websites and local television stations help to get the important messages out as quickly as possible. The Hudson Star Observer and Hudson Patch also post information.
While the district does not plan for a predicted number of school closing days during the school year, the district does schedule more student instruction days than are required by the State of Wisconsin. This extra learning time, though intended to support all students learning at higher levels, does provide the district with a small cushion of time for unexpected days for school closure. If weather conditions permit, administrative staff and some support staff are working even when school is closed or delayed. This year so far, teachers will have work time to make up without students.
Students will not need to make up time for the school closures so far this year. If additional school closings occur between now and the end of the school year, further review of student instructional time compared to the Wisconsin Department of Instruction’s required days and minutes will be necessary and adjustments made to the daily schedule, if needed.
Keeping students safe during Wisconsin’s winter is a partnership between parents and the school district. School closures, opening delays, or early dismissals, unfortunately, are part of the reality we face in the Midwest. When the decision has been made to keep schools open during challenging weather conditions, parents make the final decision about whether the conditions are safe enough in their neighborhood area for their student/s to attend school and an absence for these reasons will be excused. We appreciate the patience and understanding of our school families and encourage them to have back-up plans in place to deal with these possibilities. The difficult decision to delay and/or close schools best balances safety needs of all students with the regrettable difficulties experienced by families.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments.