During this time of year when inclement weather is common and school delays, cancellations, and early dismissals become an issue, having a clear understanding of our policy is important. Therefore, here is a review of the process and rationale used in making the decision to delay or call off school due to bad weather as well as considering the option of an early dismissal.
The process starts with Transportation Director, Bob Hingtgen, and his staff. During the winter months, their day begins around 4:00 a.m. They check on the weather and if conditions are questionable, travel to the four corners of the District. Depending on the severity of the weather, Mr. Hingtgen and his designated drivers might drive 30 to 60 miles to check travel conditions. They monitor the weather scanner and share information on road conditions with the County Secondary Road Department, Sheriff's office, and neighboring schools, particularly Dubuque and West Delaware. If the weather is bad, Mr. Hingtgen calls the Superintendent, Mr. Rick Colpitts, and together they decide whether or not to hold classes.
Bus drivers, staff members, and parents who leave for work early in the morning need ample notice and therefore the goal is to make a decision by 6:00 a.m., or earlier, to allow enough time to get the information on the local news. Sometimes, however, this is not always possible as weather conditions may change or additional information is secured. Parents and District patrons may sign up for a FREE e-mail notification service provided by the State of Iowa through the GovDelivery system. You can access this service by clicking the link below.
The decision to delay school for two hours is made to give the Transportation Director more time to evaluate the conditions but does cause special problems. For example, the Food Services Director, Clif Cameron and his kitchen staff are faced with the dilemma on whether or not to begin preparing lunch. Since the cooks typically begin lunch preparation at 7:00 a.m., a delay can really present a problem. A late start also causes problems for parents who need to make arrangements for child care.
The biggest challenge for school personnel is the winter storm that arrives after classes have begun. School officials think long and hard before making the decision to close school early. Sending 4,400 students, both public and nonpublic, home early causes problems for everyone, including parents.
Safety is our main concern. Letting out early may not be the safest decision because the weather can improve. Sometimes it is best to wait and give the road crews time to get out and salt and clear the roads. If school dismisses early, we must contact 65 bus drivers and they need to get to their busses in time to get kids home. The District must allow enough time to get the word out via radio and television so parents are alerted of the early dismissal. Since most parents work, they need ample time to arrange for child care.
Early dismissal is a major concern of Elementary Principals since they are responsible for over 1,500 students under the age of eight. Their biggest challenge when school is let out early is to get messages to students from their parents telling them where they should go after school. The Elementary Principals suggest parents consider working out a plan with their child ahead of time so the child would automatically know where to go in case of early dismissal. This would eliminate the need to call the school. It can be impossible for parents to get a message through to school at those times because the phone lines quickly get tied up. If there is a warning that a storm is on the way, another suggestion would be to send a note to school in the morning. This lets the teacher know where the child should go after school.
Early dismissal is also a problem for high schools and middle schools. When school is dismissed early, Principals need to create a shortened class schedule so that all the classes have a chance to meet before dismissal.
Extracurricular activities are also affected by early dismissal. If school dismisses early, no games or practices occur. If school is cancelled for the day and conditions clear, practices and games at the high school level can go on as usual. However, unlike high school, junior high always cancels their practices when there is no school. High School Activity Directors say that rescheduling athletic events is difficult. Finding officials for those events is even tougher. However, safety is always the primary factor when deciding whether to cancel school because of inclement weather.
If school is released early or cancelled, due to inclement weather, outside teams and groups will not be allowed to use school facilities at that time.
Even when the decision is made to hold school, the final decision on sending students rests with the parents. If parents feel conditions warrant keeping their son or daughter home, they need to notify the school without fear of reprimand. This feeling is unanimous with all the administrators. Getting our students to school and back to home safely is our number one concern. Safety alone guides the decision making process.