By Christine Osorio, District 622 Superintendent
One of the hardest decisions a school superintendent makes is closing schools due to weather. Unfortunately, I've had to make that decision more times than I'd like this year - and it's only February!
The main reason schools are closed for weather is safety. We don't want children standing at bus stops in unsafe windchill conditions, walking to school through impassable snowdrifts, getting stuck on buses that can't navigate unplowed streets or being on icy roads that are jammed with accidents.
To make our school closing decisions, we rely on several pieces of information. First and foremost is the National Weather Service. They provide updated forecasts and regularly hold conference calls with superintendents to talk about local conditions and hourly forecasts. These conference calls can take place as early as 3:30 a.m. Our transportation department starts out early in the morning to assess road conditions and determine if conditions are safe for buses to be on the roads.
In addition to snow, cold temperatures also impact school closures. At 35 degrees below zero, the National Weather Services changes their windchill advisory to a windchill warning. This is the threshold we typically use to determine when schools need to be closed due to cold. Additionally, we consider whether our buses will start in very cold temperatures.
When making decisions, we always keep in mind our students. Some don't have adults who can stay home with them if school is closed. Many rely on our free breakfast and lunch program for their only healthy meals of the day. There is a lot to consider, and it's not always an easy decision to make.
Once a decision to close school is made, we do our best to alert families as far in advance as possible. We also use a number of different communication methods - such as phone, email, text, TV news and social media - to ensure that everyone is aware who needs to be.
Minnesota requires students to be in school a minimum of 165 days and for a minimum of 1,020 hours. With the winter we have had, District 622, like many of our neighbors, is having to add additional time to the calendar to make up for winter weather closures. For more information about this, visit www.isd622.org.
Fortunately, in most years, school closings are not typical. As Minnesotans, we know winter won't last forever. I, for one, am already looking forward to a warm spring. Thank you for your ongoing support of our students, staff and schools!