WHEN SNOW FLIES

A Note from the Superintendent of Schools 

 Because we live in New England where snow can really pack a punch, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk with you about our decisions to close or open schools in bad weather. We’re aware those decisions have a big impact on you. As always, our top priority is the safety of our students and their families.

How do we make our decision?

The decision to close or delay the opening of our schools in bad weather is one we make after carefully considering a number of factors:

§  Information on road conditions

§  How much snow and ice has accumulated?

§  Will the precipitation continue

§  What are the conditions of the buildings

§  What are the conditions of the school parking lots and sidewalks

§  What is the temperature and wind chill factor

 When is the decision made and how are people notified?

As Superintendent of Schools, I am responsible for the final decision. After conferring with the town’s DPW, Building Maintenance department, and fellow superintendents, I try to make that decision by 5:30 a.m., so students, parents, and staff can be notified via local television and radio stations.

What does a delay mean?

Sometimes a weather forecast may call for a wintry mix changing over to rain or ending altogether, and it may appear that the roads will be safe to travel an hour or two after the regularly scheduled start of school. In this case, we will call for a 2-hour delay. Simply add 2 hours to the time that your child would normally get the bus or leave for school if they walk. If school is delayed, morning Early Childhood classes will be canceled. However, afternoon Early Childhood classes will take place.

Will we close schools if conditions worsen?

Weather conditions can change quickly. Occasionally, a storm hits in the middle of our school day or hits harder than expected once our students are already in school, and we are taken off guard. In this case, we may need to have an early dismissal to get students home before the roads get worse. This has not happened very often in the past, but can cause anxiety for families without a plan for this possibility. We try to avoid an early dismissal if possible, as it can mean sending children home to an empty house. Students whose parents work or are not usually home during the day should have an alternate home in the neighborhood to go to until their parents return.

Sometimes, when we have enough advanced notice that weather conditions are worsening, we begin dismissing students at the high school level 15 to 20 minutes earlier than normal (1:25 or 1:30 p.m.) By doing this, buses can reach our elementary schools closer to their normal dismissal time of 3:15 p.m. (Clark, Phelps, Robinson Park). For that reason, parents of students at the high school, junior high, middle school, and Granger School should have an alternate home for students to go before the storm season arrives.

Decisions to close early in these situations are made on short notice, so if we must call for an early dismissal, we’ll use the Connect Ed notification system and broadcast our dismissal on local television and radio stations. Connect Ed telephone messages are only as good as the updated information we have on file in your child’s school, so please notify the school if your telephone number changes.

What about teens driving?

We would ask that you discourage teenagers from driving to school on days when the weather is inclement. Bus transportation is assigned at the beginning of the school year for most students. (Those who are designated as walkers because of their close proximity to their school or who have choiced into a school are not provided bus transportation.) If your child has been assigned a bus, please be aware that he or she may ride that bus at any time, even if he or she has been driving to school most of the year. In other words, on snowy days, don’t forget about the bus or you may drive your child to school.

I hope this explanation helps you to understand the process we use to make the best possible decision for our students. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call my office at 821-0552.

Emergency School Closings

The Agawam Public Schools will close only in emergency situations when weather or highway conditions make travel to the schools hazardous or when power or heating failures occur. Parents are urged to exercise their personal judgment concerning the wisdom of sending their children to school on stormy days when schools are in session.

Television and radio stations cooperating with the schools in making school closing announcements are as follows:

§  TV Channel 40 Radio WMAS

§  TV Channel 22 Radio WHYN

§  TV Channel  3 Radio WAQY    

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