Monday, November 26, 2018

Weather: Deciding When to Close School

The first "blizzard" of the season happened on November 26.  Starting on Sunday evening, the snow came down hard and the wind blew it hard.  Some places got 13 inches, at my house on the far west side of the city, 7 1/2 fell, though some of that melted before it got cold enough to stick.  But any snowstorm of that magnitude is going to generate questions about whether school will be open the next day.

One of the things I learned from this experience is that it is probably not a good idea to follow what the Chicago Public Schools decide to do.  Their goal is to remain open if at all possible in order to ensure that they keep providing needed services to students.  They are a large organization with resources at hand to assist getting students to school on bad weather days.  We will need to made a decision independent of CPS, particularly if they choose not to close.  Most of our families come to school by car and while I did notice that the city gets the streets cleared pretty quickly and tries hard to keep traffic moving, that can be a bit of a challenge.

I know the students think that one of the more exciting jobs of a school administrator is that he can decide whether there is school or not.  Leave that decision up to them and we know the outcome!  But there are a lot of factors which go into the decision to close school for the day.  Many of our families have two parents who work and most businesses don't close for the weather.  They have to find babysitting at a moments notice.  How bad is the weather?  Is it just snow, or is there ice on the road?  Is the power on in the school?  And looking at forecasts, do we want to have students in the building if the weather is deteriorating in the afternoon?  The bottom line comes down to making the decision that keeps everyone as safe as possible.

So the next time we have a blizzard in the forecast, we will have several ways of notifying parents in place.  We will use WGN's Emergency Weather Center and put the school's status on it.  We will notify parents through our Gradelink system via email announcement.  And we are working on developing a phone chain for each class so that parents can confirm the decision has been made to close school for the day.

Snow days are nice.  For someone like me, who grew up in Arizona and rarely knew the pleasure of an unscheduled school holiday, its worth the makeup day later on.  A late November snowstorm is probably a sign of several snow days to come during the winter.  We're in good shape with built-in days and holidays we can use as snow make-up days without having to extend the school year.  So enjoy the weather!