Winter is coming, and with it, the likelihood of cold and snowy weather for several months to come (remember last year’s snows in late April?)

The Stoughton Area School District has posted information on its website about how district officials decide on canceling or altering school hours and activities based on weather.

According to the district, the most important consideration in the decision on the weather is “can we safely transport children to and from school, and at what point in time is it the safest?”

Early warning

The process begins as early as 4 a.m., wrote district superintendent Tim Onsager, when he confers with district coordinator of transportation Karen Johnson about weather conditions. They use information from weather services and consultations with 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 then travels a rural route to conduct a safety check. If plows are able to have snow removed from the majority of the routes, and there’s no concern for high winds or snowfall that would prohibit keeping the roads clear, buses will run as scheduled.

“Few vehicles are safer than buses in winter driving conditions,” Onsager wrote.

In cases of cold weather, wind chill is the main factor.

If there is an official Wind Chill Warning (-35 sustained wind chill) schools will either close for the day or consider a delayed start if the warning will be lifted in the mid-morning.

Onsager said district officials will consider closing schools if there is a Wind Chill Advisory of -25 degrees.

Making the call

If it’s determined that buses can’t safely transport children to or from school, schools will be delayed, dismissed early or closed, with the intention of making the decision by 6:30 a.m. at the latest, using its Emergency Notification system and news outlets to spread the word. Deciding to dismiss school early depends on additional criteria, he said, including that notice go out to the public at around 11 a.m. to provide parents a “reasonable notice.”

“The employment rate among our families is high and literally hundreds of young children have no one at home in the afternoon to accommodate an early dismissal,” he wrote. “Their safety from early dismissal to the point at which parental supervision is available is considered.”

Onsager said if parents have “sincere concern” for the safety of their child during weather events, they can keep them home for the day or pick them up from school early.

“In the end, please rest assured that the ability to safely move our nearly 3,000 students to and from school is the primary determinant for closing, delaying, or dismissing school early,” he wrote. “That safety is determined with input from many professionals who are committed to the safety of children – a responsibility that is not taken lightly.”

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