- Special Sections
- Public Notices
By Nannette Johnston
The winter has been kind to us so far. We can rest assured the “old man” will raise his ugly head soon, though. And, when he does we’ll have to consider our options regarding school attendance. I thought it would be helpful to share some of the factors that must be considered when cancelling classes.
What is the process for calling off school?
First, we gather the most accurate information possible including the anticipated time the snow will begin. We check The Weather Channel, radar, various forecasts as well as the National Weather Service to monitor the forecast hour by hour. In addition, we check the air temperature and the road temperature to anticipate icing conditions.
If the roads are becoming snow covered, what happens next?
Our transportation team will drive through different zones throughout the county and confer on the conditions. Phone calls are made to districts in the direction of the snow in order to more accurately match the prediction and timing of the snow with the actual conditions. Discussions also occur between neighboring districts. This decision–making process begins between 3 and 4 a.m. By 5 a.m., the transportation director and I review all factors and determine if we should close or delay. Phone calls are made to all radio and TV stations as well as the bus drivers. By 5:30 a.m., I make a One Call which is designed to call all phones numbers, approximately 21,600, within 20 to 30 minutes.
What social media outlets will notify parents we have decided to call off school for the day?
HCS has a district Facebook page, facebook.com/hardincountyschools, and a Twitter feed. Our Twitter handle is @hardincoschools. As soon as we make a decision to cancel school, we will post on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook before inclement weather.
What if the snow has not started by 5 am?
Timing is the most difficult aspect of this decision. We transport approximately 10,500 students over 16,000 miles each day. It takes us approximately three hours to get our students home, longer if there is inclement weather. If the snow is predicted to begin by 12:00, we must start transporting our elementary students by at least 9:30 a.m. Early dismissal creates a hardship for our working parents and a risk that many of our students might be home unsupervised. We also want to get our high school student drivers on the road as soon as possible. The amount of quality instruction time is also a consideration.
If we’ve already been out of school, how is the decision made regarding the return to school?
Our transportation team checks all questionable roads. We consider the late afternoon road conditions and anticipate the morning conditions based on the temperature. If we can transport at least 90 percent of our students on our regular pick up, our drivers call the families in the areas of question and work out an alternate pick up. If conditions are questionable, we have the option to run on a one- or two-hour delayed schedule. Per state law, we can use up to 5 hours total on a delayed schedule over the period of a year without penalty. If we exceed the 5 hour limit, we must make up the hour on the day that the hour delay was taken. This option has not been used by our district because of the hardship this creates for families because of short notice.
These decisions are tough and we know people won’t always agree with them. We value our instructional time, but the safety of our children is most important. We will always err on the side of caution.
Nanette Johnston is superintendent of Hardin County Schools.