We try to keep our schools open as scheduled as much as possible. However, there are times when weather conditions cause us to cancel school for the safety of our 25,000 students. We do not make that decision lightly because we understand canceling school can create difficulties for families.
There are a number of things to consider when determining whether to have school during inclement weather. Some of those include the condition of area roads; school safety issues such as parking lots, sidewalks and roofs; bus fleet condition; and weather forecast for the remainder of the day.
Who makes the decision?
A decision team comprised of individuals representing transportation, school police services, and facilities evaluate relevant factors and make a recommendation to the superintendent about whether to close school. The superintendent, after reviewing all the information, makes the final decision as early as possible.
How is the decision made?
The recommendation crew begins road/street assessments, snow crews start cleaning and/or graveling parking lots, and the transportation preparation crew reports to work, based upon the timing of the weather event. SPS participates in a conference call with the National Weather Service and area schools and a recommendation is made to the superintendent. The superintendent makes the final cancellation decision. If school is canceled, media outlets are notified, website and social media are updated, text messages, emails, and MySPS app notifications are sent as early as possible, followed by a Blackboard Connect automated phone call at 6 a.m. Factors influencing the decision include temperature and wind chill, bus fleet status, condition of state, county and city roads, forecast and building safety issues.
When and how is the decision communicated?
Every effort is made to make a decision by 5 a.m. whether to cancel school so that parents can be alerted as soon as possible. The decision to cancel is announced immediately once it is made via SPS Twitter and Facebook accounts, website and local news media. Parents will also receive an email alert. Parents who have signed up for Blackboard Connect will be notified via telephone message beginning at 6 a.m. Parents will also be notified by text message if they have opted-in for that service. If you are not currently receiving the automated phone calls and/or text messages, complete the Blackboard Connect form and return it to your child's school OR if your child attends high school or middle school (excluding Pleasant View and Westport) you can update that information by logging in to Home Access Center. Notifications will also be sent out over the MySPS app. Individuals may also call the School Closing Line at 523-0110. Please do not rely solely on one method of notification. At times, in extreme weather conditions, internet access or telephone service may be disrupted preventing or delaying the use of some communication channels.
Why doesn't SPS utilize delayed start times?
For many of our families, it is difficult to adjust work schedules or find child care for just a few hours in the morning. A delayed start can also make it difficult for working parents with students who are not eligible for bus transportation to get their children to school later than the routine start time. In addition to problems it could create for parents, there are transportation factors that make late start an ineffective option. Besides their regular school routes, bus drivers transport 1,300 students to various programs throughout the district which operate on a different schedule than regular schools. Some examples include special education and early childhood programs. Many of these are half-day programs so with a two-hour late start, students who participate in the morning session of a program would only be at school for an hour or so before it was time for them to leave again.
Why does SPS have school when area districts dismiss?
Each school district must evaluate its own conditions. The number of rural roads, lack of street maintenance, etc., can make the safety of travel vary from one district to another even when they are in close geographic proximity.
When school is canceled, are all extra-curricular activities canceled?
On days when school is not in session, programs held in our facilities such as before and after-school child care are also canceled. However, some athletic events and other student activities may continue as scheduled depending on changing weather conditions, distance of travel, departure times and location. Activity/athletic cancellations are posted here as they are announced.
When will missed days be made up?
SPS builds into its school calendar six make-up days. If more than six make-up days are necessary, a decision will be made in early spring about additional make-up days.
When inclement weather forces a school district to cancel school more than six days, there is a provision in state statute which exempts school districts from making up all of those days and caps at 10 the number of days that must be made up. According to statute, a school district must make up the first six days missed due to inclement weather then it is required to make up only alternating days missed until it reaches a total of 10 make-up days. For example, a school district that misses a total of 14 snow days would have to make up the first six days plus days 7, 9, 11 and 13. Days 8, 10, 12 and 14 would be forgiven.
Do transportation rules change during inclement weather?
Offering transportation to students during inclement weather who normally do not qualify for transportation would be logistically difficult. The district does not have enough buses or drivers to transport more than the students who qualify for transportation on a daily basis. The current bus fleet operates at capacity.
If your regular bus is 30 minutes late, students should return home and contact the district transportation department at 523-0500. You can also monitor bus delays at www.sps.org/busdelays.
If a parent makes the decision to keep their child home, will they be counted absent?
Parents are in the best position to decide if their child should stay home due to safety concerns. Children who are kept out of school when school is in session will be counted absent. The district does not differentiate between excused and unexcused absences. The only time a student is not counted absent is if they are out of school due to a school-sponsored activity.