We understand that the decision to keep schools open or close them in bad weather has a big impact on our families and staff. We also know that our students are better served – both academically and socially – by being in school. Please know that the safety of our students and staff is always our top priority in any decision of this sort.
WHO MAKES THE DECISION?
The superintendent of schools is responsible for the final decision, based on the factors listed below and recommendations from key staff members.
WHEN IS THE DECISION MADE?
We make every effort to make our decision by 5:30 a.m. or earlier so we can notify radio and TV stations and post the decision on our Web site (www.swcsd.us), Facebook and Twitter. If we wait longer to announce a closing, our buses are already on the road and many parents will have already left for work, leaving their children at home unsupervised.
HOW ARE PARENTS AND THE PUBLIC NOTIFIED?
Parents will receive a telephone call and/or e-mail through our parent notification system when the decision is made to close school. Please make sure your emergency contact information is up-to-date through the Infinite Campus Parent Portal (Contact Preferences) to receive your notification.
We will also continue to notify the media of all school closings. Parents can check our Web site for closing information (www.swcsd.us) and/or sign up for Facebook or Twitter notification through the Web site. Many of our local television stations have immediate notifications that can be sent to your e-mail, cell phone or home phone. Given the fact we have approximately 20,685 students, we ask that you not call the school or the district offices, unless it is an emergency.
HOW DO WE MAKE OUR DECISION?
The decision to keep schools open or close schools in bad weather is based on a careful analysis of various factors including:
Ö Information on road conditions from the transportation staff and local police departments. Careful consideration is given to the most
dangerous roads and intersections in the district. Your street may look clear, but travel elsewhere in the district may be very dangerous. The opposite is also true.
Ö The amount of snow and ice that has accumulated.
Ö Whether the conditions are worsening or improving.
Ö Building conditions such as whether the buildings have electricity, heat and water.
Ö Parking lot and sidewalk conditions. We keep in constant contact with our maintenance and custodial staff to make sure our school
locations can be safely cleared.
Ö Temperature and wind chill. We do not publish a specific temperature or wind chill at which schools will be closed as different sources
can report different air temperatures. In most cases, schools can remain open even when air temperatures fall below zero.
Ö Weather predictions. We prefer not to make our decisions based upon weather predictions, which are not always accurate. Sometimes,
this is unavoidable due to the nature of the weather in our part of the state.
Ö What other area school districts are doing. We share information with other local school districts and check their status. This does not
mean that South-Western Schools will automatically be closed if Columbus City Schools are closed.
WILL WE HAVE A TWO-HOUR DELAY?
The district has studied a two-hour delay as part of the decision to keep school open or to close. As we studied this option we involved a variety of staff, community, and parents. Based upon the vast differences in the 119-square mile geographic areas of the district, it was determined that in those rare cases when a two-hour delay would be an option it would be more appropriate to close school for that day. Part of this reasoning is based upon those situations in which a two-hour delay would eventually become a school closing. Students may be left without child care, care givers outside the district may not be appropriately prepared for the change, a student may be left at a bus stop for an extended period of time waiting for a bus, or an individual may not receive word of the change.
At this time, the district has determined that it will make the decision to stay open or to close based upon the conditions that exist first thing in the morning. While this could ultimately close school for an additional day, we believe that it is safer for students and staff than the alternative. Therefore, at this time, the district will not use a two-hour delay as an option.
WILL SWCSD CLOSE SCHOOL IF CONDITIONS WORSEN?
Please remember that for the safety of our students and staff, we cannot reverse an early morning decision to keep schools open – even if weather conditions worsen. This could endanger many of our students as our parents rely on the information and leave for work.
If we close schools early and send students home, many return to unsupervised bus stops and empty houses. While we make every attempt to avoid early dismissal, if conditions worsen during the day or we lose power and/or heat, we may be forced to close school early, dismissing the high school students first. In the event of such a decision, we will notify parents through our Parent Notification System of the change. We also urge you to pay close attention to local radio and television stations, and Web sites for timely updates. Students will not be able to use school telephones to make arrangements, so please have an emergency back-up plan in place in the event of an unexpected dismissal.
Please know that we do our best to keep our students and staff safe during inclement weather. There is no perfect decision for everyone. We hope this explanation helps everyone understand the process that our staff members and superintendent use to make the safest possible decision for everyone.
WCMH (NBC-4) www.nbc4i.com (text and e-mail alerts available through sign up)
WSYX (ABC-6) www.abc6onyourside.com (text message alerts available through sign up)
WTTE (Fox-28) www.myfox28columbus.com (text alerts available through sign up)
WBNS (Channel 10) www.10tv.com (e-mail alerts available through sign up)
ONN (Ohio News Now) www.ohionewsnow.com (e-mail alerts available through sign up)
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