In order to inform parents and the public about school closings and delays due to inclement weather, Warsaw Community Schools released its guidelines today.
Weather conditions are both variable and extreme in Northern Indiana. Warsaw Community Schools believes that due to the large geographical size of WCS, it is understood differing weather and/or road conditions could be present within the district, the release states.
Due to this factor, on days with possible inclement weather WCS will complete the following steps.
It will dispatch multiple transportation officials to the differing quadrants between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. These transportation officials will provide recommendations to the transportation director on the road/weather conditions.
The transportation director will also be communicating with city, county and state road officials to evaluate road conditions by 5:30 a.m. along with evaluating forecast conditions. Recommendations from the transportation department are then provided to the superintendent.
Concrete rules do not exist for making decisions regarding variable and extreme weather, but these guidelines will serve as a reference for WCS.
“WCS believes the public expects schools to be open and to provide education, supervision, and other services (including meals) to its students. WCS believes all parents are committed to keeping children safe and these parents will dress their children appropriately for the weather when sending children to school,” the release states. “WCS recognizes that it is first and foremost a parental decision to determine if a child should attend school on inclement weather days. WCS respects a parent’s determination regarding their child’s attendance at school during inclement weather. If school is open, or delayed, because of inclement weather, the school will respect the parent’s decision to keep their child at home.”
Parents are expected to contact the school and inform school officials of their determination. The student will be counted absent, per state code, and students will be given an opportunity to complete their academic work in the same manner as an excused absence from school.
On a normal day, it will be announced no later than 5:45 a.m. if WCS is delaying and/or closing. Following a delay, it will be announced no later than 7:45 a.m. if schools will be closing.
Following the district’s Twitter account, @WCS_district, or checking the school website www.warsaw.k12.in.us are the most immediate means of communication for delays and/or cancellations, the release states.
Automated phone and text messages through PowerSchool contacts are sent within 15 minutes of a delay and/or cancellation. If a person does or does not want to be contacted by the automated system, they should update PowerSchool settings and contact information to ensure correct notification. These updates need to be completed for each registered student.
Additional media outlets are also contacted, including WRSW, WIOE, WNDU, WSBT and WPTA.
Delaying or closing school is based on multiple variables, the release states.
The most unpredictable weather variable is freezing rain/sleet. Freezing rain/sleet is temperature sensitive and fast occurring. It begins and ends with little notice. When freezing rain/sleet is predicted, the decision regarding school is delayed until the latest possible time in effort to observe the most current and local conditions. Such a decision will generally be made in the morning.
Snowfall is more predictable, the release states. Meteorologists generally give a 2-inch variable when predicting snow accumulation. Because of the variation in actual snowfall, when compared to predicted snowfall, the decision regarding school status is delayed until the snow accumulation indicated a need for action. Such a decision, except in extreme situations, will generally be made in the morning.
In extreme snowfall situations, when snow has accumulated to a significant level, or is at such a level with more snowfall predicted, then the decision regarding school may be made the previous evening. A significant level is one in which local authorities have indicated it is unlikely streets will be passable by the following morning.
Temperature prediction is increasingly accurate. WCS uses the hourly temperature predictions from its zip code from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (noaa.gov). In addition, WCS uses the wind chill chart from NOAA and the National Weather Service showing when frostbite becomes a concern if bare skin is exposed to frigid temperatures for varying amounts of time.
If air temperature is predicted by NOAA to be -10 degrees or below with calm wind (the starting point for severe wind chill concern) at 6 a.m., the school will consider a two-hour delay for the start of school. If the air temperature is predicted to remain at -10 or below at 8 a.m. with calm wind, the school will consider closing. Such a determination will be made as early as possible, including the evening before.
Wind chill prediction is not as accurate as temperature prediction because wind speed is more variable by time and location. NOAA observation and predictions are based upon the open conditions. These conditions can vary from the actual weather within the WCS district. Local observations of wind speed will affect the decision regarding delaying or closing school. Using the wind chill chart, severe wind chill concerns or frostbite emerge at a predicted wind chill temperature at or near -20 degrees for 30 minutes.
If wind chill is predicted by NOAA to be at or near -20 degrees or below and if local conditions are predicted to mirror predicted wind chill temperatures at 8 a.m., the school will consider closing. The variability of wind speed will likely cause this decision to be made in the morning unless the predictions indicate extreme conditions past the threshold of frostbite.
“Power Announcement allows our school to send messages using email, voice and text messaging. Voice calls will be sent with 574-371-5098 as the caller ID number. You may want to add this phone number to your address book to help you recognize incoming calls from the school easily. Text messages will be sent using a caller ID of 77811. You may want to add this phone number to your address book as well. Please note you will not be able to reply to text messages sent from the school,” the release states.
Power Announcement is integrated with the existing PowerSchool Parent Portal. If a person logs on to the Parent Portal, they will now see a new link called “Power Announcement”. They will be able to see all the contact information WCS has listed for them. Within this section of the Parent Portal, a person will also be able to choose their communication preferences based on message category, such as school closures or student bulletins, and message type. A person may opt-out of any message category except for emergency messages.
(Story By The Times Union)