Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cold Weather, Late Starts, and Indoor Recess!

Its time for my yearly article about weather related schedule changes! We are deep into the winter and the groundhog apparently saw his shadow last weekend. That means there are at least six more weeks of this long cold winter ahead of us! Cold is the operative word, isn't it? We have broken quite a few records and continue to be stuck indoors. I know the teachers sure would think it a nice day if the students could get outside for recess one of these days. Sorry teachers, I don't think we are going to see warm weather anytime soon.

For those of you keeping track, so far this year we have had the 'pleasure' of only two weather related cancellations (I have to be careful here; it is still February), but we have had multiple late starts. As I am writing this blog the list of schools announcing a late start for tomorrow are starting to pile up. Right now I am willing to hold out a bit longer. I am waiting for an updated weather report on the 10 o'clock news and am waiting to hear from my colleagues to the west. Those to the south and east have already decided to go late. I have already cancelled the morning schedule of activities so that buys some time. The problem with this winter has had more to do with the cold weather than with piles of snow. Of course there is still plenty of time for a big snowstorm.

As a youngster I remember sitting in front of the television in the evening just hoping that our school would be one of the lucky ones that had a late start or cancellation the next day. With my siblings we would watch the schools scroll by, one by one and wonder why on earth our school wasn't on the list yet. The real bummer was when the television program would go to a commercial break and interrupt the cue, only to have it return after the break and start over again with the 'A's (my school was a 'W' so it was extra frustrating!).

Then we would see that the school next door was cancelling and wonder why not ours? What was that crazy superintendent thinking anyway? I think as young people we all wish that we had that power--the power to give that wonderful gift to students! Well, its not all that it is cracked up to be.

We have been relatively lucky so far because we have been able to make most of our decisions early. Many times this year I have been able to decide the night before if we were going to delay or cancel. I know this is nice for everyone to know, especially parents who need to make child care arrangements. To be honest its nice for me to know too! Typically the decision making begins a day or two advance of the weather event, right about the time that the forecast is beginning to firm up.

There are consultations with the local meteorologists, and depending how big the pending weather is we may even have webinar meetings with the National Weather Service out of Des Moines. Then there are the phone calls with colleagues. It should come as no surprise that these decisions are not made in a vacuum, we all speak regularly and typically try to stick together as much as possible. I am sure the students know all the markers. (If only I could go back and tell my 10 year old self that 'Yes, my superintendent does know what the other superintendents are doing in the district next door.) Sometimes we are lucky enough to make that call the night before, but that is not always the case. Even though it is 2014 the weather forecasts are not perfect and are subject to change.

That means an early morning, usually starting somewhere between 4:00 and 4:30 a.m. Driving the roads to see firsthand just how bad those roads are. Then of course there are the phone calls between colleagues as we all try to make that solitary decision that is the best for our district.

I guess I should start to wrap this up. It is going to be really cold tomorrow and the phone calls are starting.

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