Last year, a mild start to winter gave way to a three-week Arctic blast that saw the Stoughton Area School District cancel six out of 18 school days in late January and early February.
That became a problem, as the district only scheduled for three “snow days,” and had to make up the time through minutes added to the school days the last few months of the year.
The district once again has three snow days to work with this year, and its website outlines the protocols for why and when classes would be postponed, canceled or released early due to inclement weather.
The process begins as early as 4 a.m. when superintendent Tim Onsager and the district coordinator of transportation, Karen Johnson confer about weather conditions with information from national and local sources.
They contact county and municipal road crews to assess road conditions and the extent to which they will be safe to travel at the time students are to be transported. A bus driver travels a rural route and is consulted for their input as to the safety of travel on the road.
If plows can remove snow from the majority of bus routes and there is no concern for high winds or a rate of snowfall that would prohibit keeping the roads clear, buses are considered able to operate safely.
For cold weather, the main indicator is wind chill factor. If the wind chill factor generates a Wind Chill Warning (-35 sustained wind chill) schools will either close for the day or be delayed if the warning will be lifted by mid-morning. District officials will “consider” closing schools during a Wind Chill Advisory (-25 degrees).
“If it is determined we cannot safely transport children to school, or cannot safely transport children home from school, then schools will be delayed, dismissed early, or closed,” the SASD website states.
District officials’ goal is to announce any delays or closings by 6 a.m. at the latest, using the SASD Emergency Notification system and local news outlets to spread the word.
While the district has the final say on school closings or delays, Onsager said if parents have “sincere concern for the safety of their child, they can certainly keep their child home or pick them up from school early.”