There is a particular energy in schools when the meteorologists begin to fill the airways with talk about a coming snowstorm and extreme cold. The buzz fills the hallways, extends to the parking lots, becomes the topic of meetings, and social media becomes ground zero for debate, discussion, a bit of whining, humor and even prayer.
Depending on your perspective and responsibilities, the possibility that school will be cancelled leaves community members with very strong feelings. As a school administrator I have discovered over time that there is seldom a correct answer to the question: Should we cancel school today because of the weather? No one in a school community is agnostic about this question. Parents, who need to go to work no matter what the weather conditions are, depend on the school for child care and worry about the need for last minute planning. All of us ponder questions of safety and read weather advisories and warnings as guideposts for how to act.
The two messages I want our community to know are, first, that we go through a very thoughtful process before making the decision to close or stay open and, perhaps most importantly, we respect your decision as a parent to keep your child at home when you determine that conditions are not safe for your child to travel to school.
Unlike many schools whose names scroll across the television screen announcing they have closed, Roeper does not depend on school bus transportation for our children to travel to and from school. With the few exceptions of students using public transportation, our students are not waiting on the corner for a bus. Many public school districts factor bus travel and the time a student spends waiting for a bus into their decision making when choosing to close. Because the vast majority of our students travel to school by car we must use a different set of criteria in our decision-making.
Roeper families travel from over twenty different communities spread out over a significant geographical area. Weather in Southeastern Michigan may be very different in each of these communities. The choice of a family who lives in Birmingham may be very different from a family traveling from Macomb County. The School will make a decision in a timely manner to give families guidance, but only you can decide what the right decision is for you and your child.
When making the decision to keep the school open or to close we review the following:
- Facilities – Do we have heat, are the utilities functional?
- Access – Have the walks, parking lots, and area access roads been adequately plowed and salted for us to access the campuses?
- Shuttle – Is the bus between campuses operational given the weather conditions?
- Food Service – Is our food service provider able to deliver and serve lunch to both campuses?
- Area Conditions – What are the general travel conditions now, during the school day, at dismissal, and in the evening (given after school activities/events)? What travel warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service or local authorities?
- Resources – What information can we glean from meteorologists; bus drivers; local news; our maintenance team—who drive to campuses and attempt to prepare the facilities before a decision is made—as well as other schools in the area (Birmingham, and Bloomfield Hills Public Schools, Cranbrook, DCD, Sacred Heart, Eton, and others)?
After gathering all of this information, we will make a decision before 6:00 a.m., and use our Emergency Alert call system, local media, and our website to notify the community of the decision. When possible we will make the call the night before, however, most frequently the decision is made the morning of the weather event.
I wish I could categorically tell you that in the weeks, months and years to come we will not have snow days, cold days, or weather related decisions – however this is Michigan, and I can say with some certainty that this will be an annual issue. What I can say with absolute certainty is that we take our responsibility for the care and safety of our students very seriously. As always, we respect your decision to assess your situation and needs.