Late start? Early dismissal? No school at all? Hard surface routes only? There are many factors to consider when deciding to change a school schedule during inclement weather. Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District (VSCSD) Superintendent, Mary Jo Hainstock explains the process she uses to make those decisions.
“The process starts very early in the morning when our transportation director, Eric Kakac, starts driving the roads. He often checks in with our buildings and grounds director and our mechanic who are both up early and driving into the school. We check for updated weather forecasts using multiple sources such as NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and local media stations. Often, I visit with neighboring superintendents while Mr. Kakac checks with the county roads department to understand what their teams are reporting. We work together to have a decision made by 5:30 am. That way there is time to notify drivers, other staff, parents, and students who may be heading into early morning practices. We consider the current conditions, projections for the main 6-8 AM drive time, what other districts are doing, and other circumstances (for example, people are generally “better” at driving normal winter driving conditions in January than they are in November). In the case of inclement weather during the school hours, we again monitor closely and makes decisions based on the forecast projections for the drive home or for evening activities.”
We also consider whether our maintenance crew will have adequate time to clean parking lots and the sidewalks. This can take several hours and becomes harder when people have driven through the snow or if there is blowing and drifting.”
Brandon Farmer, VSCSD Director of Technology, plays a significant role in communicating weather notifications. Usually, within 10 minutes of Farmer getting the news of a change, a message has been sent out to everyone in the school district who ask to receive automated messages.
Farmer suggests the best way for students and parents to stay informed is to sign up for the announcements through School Messenger. This program sends automated text messages, emails and phone calls to subscribers of the service. He also notes that text messages seem to be the fastest way to receive information because the School Messenger system sends out the phone calls and emails in small batches to prevent them from being flagged as spam.
School Messenger isn’t the only way to receive school-related weather announcements. Notifications are also posted on the VSCSD Facebook page and sent to local television stations KCRG (Channel 9), KGAN/KFXA (Channels 2 & 20) and KWWL (Channel 7).
Hainstock emphasizes, “The safety of our students is always our top priority. Any decision to cancel, delay or implement an early out because of the weather is made with great care.”
For more information about the Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District including links to both School Messenger and Power Schools, visit www.vscsd.org.