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Making the call during inclement weather

on September 25, 2015

The decision to close school during inclement weather is never made lightly. Many factors are considered—with student safety being the most important. The decision to close school or to have a delayed opening or early dismissal is based on the recommendations of transportation and facilities directors, and after thorough analysis of the following relevant factors:

  • Information on road conditions from transportation staff and police. District leaders must determine whether or not road conditions will allow drivers to transport students to school safely. Careful consideration is given to the most dangerous roads in the 86 square miles traveled by district buses. Beginning at 3:30 a.m., the director of transportation drives many of these roads, particularly those in higher elevations, to determine if they are safe for school buses. Input on road conditions is also received from the police and Warwick’s highway supervisor.
  • Current weather conditions and accumulation. The decision is also based, in part, on the amount of snow that has accumulated and whether precipitation is continuing.
  • Temperature and wind chill. Since some of our students walk to school and most must wait outside for the bus, frigid temperatures could put students at risk.
  • Weather predictions. While administrators prefer not to make a decision based on weather predictions, sometimes this is unavoidable, especially when a major snowstorm is predicted. Our district receives regular updates from two sources: the Weather Service and Doppler Radar. Updated every five minutes, Doppler provides detailed reports on the storm’s current location and its projected path.
  • District buildings and parking lot conditions. Buildings must have electricity and
    heat, and maintenance staff must be able to clear snow/ice from the school
    sidewalks and parking lots.
  • Other school districts. It is common practice to check with neighboring districts to see if their schools will be open or closed.

As soon as the decision is made, the public is notified through the School Messenger Service (SMS) and local radio and TV stations. An announcement is also posted on the district website and on district Facebook and Twitter pages. Text message and email notifications are also sent out to registered users via The Warwick Valley Central School District School News Notifier (SNN).

Every possible effort is made to release this information before 5:30 a.m. so that parents of students and staff are notified before they leave for work.

It is important to note that, when the decision is made to open school, it cannot be reversed later in the morning without endangering students. Many parents rely on our decision to determine when they will leave for work. If conditions worsen, students cannot be transported right back home, since many will return to unsupervised bus stops and empty houses. When weather conditions warrant, students may be released early, after giving adequate notice to parents through the media, district website, School Messenger Service (SMS) and the School News Notifier (SNN) opt-in alert service.

While administrators go through a comprehensive decision-making process before deciding to open or close school, this decision is not an exact science. If school is open, but you feel it is not safe for your child to attend, use your best judgment. Additionally, parents of teen drivers who are concerned about them driving in poor conditions should know there is a seat available on the bus for every student.

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