Dear Frontier Regional and Union 38 Families,
People often ask me how the decision to close or delay school due to inclement weather is made. Sometimes the decision is very easy but there are other times when it is not clear at all because weather conditions are quick to change. I’d like to share the process behind these decisions with you.
I evaluate many factors and sources of information as I try to make the most responsible decisions for our students and employees. Our main focus is always their safety. I also think about how a potential delay or closing might impact instructional time for our students. Closing or delaying schools is a serious responsibility. A change in a school schedule can create inconveniences and difficulties for many families. I try to make the best and most informed decision I can and try to communicate it to our families as quickly and reliably as I can.
Our primary consideration is the safety of the children and whether our busses can safely transport students to and from school. We consider the timing of the storm, the actual and forecasted temperatures combined with the wind chill impact, and the progress of the crews working to clear the roads. For instance, we generally do not delay the opening of school because it is cold, however, if the temperature is quite low and there is marked wind chill, the chances that our earliest bus riders waiting in the dark could possibly be in danger, we would delay to give the sun a chance to come up and help raise the temperature so the wind chill would not be so severe. I pay special attention when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notifies the public of a Weather Advisory or a Weather Warning.
The evening before any questionable weather forecasts, I follow the trajectory of the event closely and consult with other Franklin County superintendents. There are nine school districts on our text list, including Greenfield, Pioneer, Mohawk, Erving, Orange, Franklin Tech, Athol- Royalston and Gill-Montague. At about 4:00 a.m., the superintendents begin communicating with each other about the conditions in their perspective districts. Meanwhile, I am also consulting with our four town highway superintendents to determine the state of our roads. Based on all the information gathered, I make a decision as soon as I can. Sometimes I am able to decide to call it the evening before and other times I need to wait until the morning of the event. On those days, I make the decision by 5:00 a.m. as to whether we will have a delay or cancellation.
Once the decision is made, I notify the principals and central office staff. I then make an automated message informing families and staff of the plan. I schedule the message to be delivered to the homes between 5:45 and 6:00 a.m. Patti Cavanaugh, our Business Director, notifies the bus companies and the television stations.
Often times, some roads may even seem clear, however, there is a delay due to the fact that the conditions may vary greatly. Our district is spread over a large area that includes four towns and varying altitudes. Sometimes roads are fine in one place, but may be treacherous in other areas.
The decision to delay is made when there is reason to believe that conditions will improve during the two hours. If, however, we find that the conditions have worsened rather than improved, on rare occasions, we may decide to cancel school shortly after the delay call went out. If this is the case, we will notify you as soon as possible of the change. On the other hand, we will most likely never dismiss school early unless there is an extreme circumstance.
I know that cancelling or delaying school causes families a great deal of inconvenience, and I do not take this decision lightly. As often as I can, I will try to send out a message the evening before an expected weather event to help families prepare for the following day.
I appreciate the feedback we receive from families, staff, and community members. As always, I appreciate your understanding and flexibility during our New England winters!
Lynn M. Carey, Ed.D.
Superintendent of School