Greetings King Philip Community:
I do love the snow. However, at some point, it will close schools, delay openings, and maybe even cause early dismissals. Although our students are better served by being in school, our top priority is their safety. I know the decision to open or close schools in bad weather has a major impact on families. If it is absolutely clear we are going to get the snow jackpot, as the media calls it, schools can be canceled the night before. If there is a chance we might be able to have school the next day, the final decision has to wait until the morning. As much as I hate waiting, it is the most responsible way to make the decision. However, we do have a significant number of students who participate in early morning practices and club meetings. If the weather conditions are uncertain, it is likely that a decision to cancel these events will occur the night before, even if school does not end up being canceled.
HOW IS THE DECISION MADE?
The decision to open or close the schools in bad weather is based on the following information when available.
- Status of road conditions from the Norfolk, Plainville, and Wrentham Departments of Public Works and Police Departments, Careful consideration to the most dangerous roads in the district. Even if your street looks clear, travel elsewhere in the district may be dangerous. In addition, we must consider that many high school students drive to school.
- Amount of snow and ice accumulated.
- Whether precipitation is continuing.
- Building conditions (such as whether we have electricity and heat).
- Driveway and parking lot conditions. The ability of our groundskeepers and custodians to clear school driveways and parking lots, as well as, to clear and treat school sidewalks and doorways during storms.
- Weather predictions. We prefer to not make our decision based on weather predictions, which are not always accurate. However, sometimes this is unavoidable.
- What other school districts are doing. We also share information with other local districts and check whether they are opening or closing, with frequent conversations occurring between the four tri-town school districts. However, these conditions can vary greatly depending on the town even if they are our next-door neighbors.
WHO MAKES THE DECISION?
I am responsible for the final decision, based on the above factors and recommendations.
IS REMOTE LEARNING AN OPTION?
While remote learning was an option afforded to school districts during the height of the pandemic, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has informed school districts that this will not be an option for the 2022-2023 school year. If the district were to call a remote learning day due to weather concerns, the district would still be required to make up the day at the end of the school year.
HOW IS THE PUBLIC NOTIFIED?
We will use our automated phone call system and will post the closing on our News Blog, Twitter account, @KPSchoolDist, and our Facebook page, @KingPhilipRegionalSchoolDistrict. Please be sure that your telephone contact information, submitted to your child’s school, is correct. All local media outlets are also notified and publish this information.
WHEN IS THE DECISION MADE?
The decision should be made no later than 5:30 AM or earlier if possible, so we can notify the television stations. If we wait longer to announce a closing, it makes it very difficult for families and school personnel to change their morning routines. I send the messages as soon as possible.
WILL WE CLOSE SCHOOL IF CONDITIONS WORSEN?
Please keep in mind that, even if weather conditions worsen, we cannot reverse the decision in the morning without endangering students. Once the decision is made to open schools, many parents rely on that decision and leave for work. If we send students right back home, many will return to unsupervised bus stops and empty homes. Unfortunately, even with the best information available from many sources, New England weather can surprise all of us.
WILL WE DISMISS EARLY IF A STORM IS UNEXPECTEDLY HEAVY DURING THE SCHOOL DAY?
Early dismissals are very unlikely, we risk sending students home to empty houses. Families should please have a plan in place in the event it is necessary. Our system shares buses with two of the elementary districts to transport all of the grades. This is one of the reasons why our school start and dismissal times are earlier than the elementary schools. After one group is transported the buses go and begin another loop. We are not able to call additional buses to release all of the students from all the schools at once. Therefore, conditions may warrant a staggered early dismissal for all of the schools. This will allow the buses with slow driving conditions to get a head start on their first route and hopefully arrive at the elementary schools close to the planned dismissal time.
WHAT ABOUT BUS TRANSPORTATION DURING STORMS?
Waiting at home for a student to arrive when the bus is late can be nerve-wracking, especially during a storm. Road and traffic conditions will slow the travel. Please remember that your child is actually safest on the bus, due to its size, as it slowly moves through the towns during a storm.
WHAT ABOUT SIDEWALKS AND GETTING TO BUS STOPS?
The Departments of Public Works clear the major sidewalks as soon as they can. The towns frequently rely on property owners and citizens to clear their own walkways. Families need to please be aware that unfavorable sidewalk conditions can occur during and after a snowstorm. Even if sidewalks have been cleaned, citizens clearing their driveways and walkways can cause sidewalks to be blocked. Melting and re-freezing of snow can also create an icing situation. Families should always be aware of the conditions of their child’s walk to school or the bus stop and act accordingly.
Importantly, if you do not feel as though it is safe for your children to attend school, use your best judgment on whether they should attend. Also, please discourage teenagers from driving in bad conditions and offer them alternatives if weather conditions worsen.
I hope this explanation helps everyone understand the process used to make the best possible decision for our students.
Paul A. Zinni
Superintendent of Schools