Archive for Thursday, November 30, 2006

District prepares for snow days

Superintendent tries to make call as early as possible

November 30, 2006

As winter approaches, so does the possibility of a snow day - that day off from school all kids dream of and many parents abhor.

Snow days give students an opportunity to catch up on sleep, spend time with friends, frolic in the snow or just be lazy.

They also can throw a wrench into the schedules of parents, especially those who work outside the home.

With the possibility of snow, ice and school cancellations looming, Lansing schools superintendent Randal Bagby is reminding families of the district's inclement weather procedures.

Bagby said the goal was to make a decision as early as possible whether to hold classes.

"My preference is to do it the night before so parents can secure daycare, but that isn't always possible," he said.

Bagby added that students' safety was the district's top priority during the process.

He said he made the final decision with input from public safety officials and district staff, including Dale Bohannon, director of maintenance and capital improvement, and Judy Bettis, transportation manager at Durham School Services.

The officials consider the condition of streets and roads throughout the district, keeping in mind that some high school students navigate them.

In a letter to parents in October, Bagby explained that a variety of other factors also weigh in, including: the amount of snow and ice present and whether more precipitation is forecast; temperature and wind chill; building conditions such as electricity and heat; parking lot conditions; and whether area school districts are in session.

Once a decision is made to cancel classes or activities, district officials notify television and radio stations and post the information on the district's inclement weather Web site, www.palmleaders.net/weather.htm. The information also is posted on lansingcurrent.com as soon as it is released.

If officials decide classes will be held, that often translates to a full day of pencils and books, although subsequent severe weather could create an exception.

"Once they get to school, we tend to keep them there," Bagby said, adding that sending students home early could endanger the safety of those who return to empty houses or unsupervised bus stops.

For that reason, parents will be notified as soon as possible during early dismissals, Bagby said.

The letter to parents also advised them to discourage teens from driving in severe weather and to offer transportation alternatives.

Noting that it would be impossible for the district to make a "perfect decision," Bagby included a caveat for parents: "If you do not feel as though it is safe for your child to attend school, use your best judgment on whether he or she should attend."

State law requires kindergartners to attend 465 hours of school. Students in first through 11th grade must attend a minimum of 1,116 hours annually, and high school seniors are required to attend 1,086 hours annually.

Bagby said the district's schedule included "two or three days leeway" in case of inclement weather.

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