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Making the call: How Guilderland decides on weather-related closings and delays

Jan. 16, 2015—Love it or hate it, snow, ice and frigid temperatures are a part of daily life this time of year in the Capital Region. As a result, school districts throughout the area often need to make tough calls about school closures and delays due to weather. At Guilderland, district leaders do not take these decisions lightly.

“We understand that changes in the scheduled school day present challenges for parents, but sometimes these changes are necessary in order to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marie Wiles.

Gathering the necessary information
Deciding to cancel or delay school, or to release students from school early, is a delicate balance of educational and safety priorities, first-hand observations, and weather forecasts. On days of inclement weather, the district’s Transportation Supervisor Danielle Poirier is out on the road before 4 a.m. surveying road conditions in order to advise the superintendent so that she can decide on school closures and delays.

“We need to make sure that the travel is safe in all parts of the district,” said Poirier. “Sometimes it may be just raining on Western Avenue while the roads in Berne, at its higher elevation, are covered in snow.”

The Guilderland Central School District covers nearly 50 square miles and runs an average of 90 buses each day, transporting students to more than to 75 different schools.

The district also takes into account building conditions on days of inclement weather.

“Depending on when an overnight storm dies down, our maintenance team may not be able to plow all parking lots and clear all walkways quickly enough for an on-time opening,” added Poirier. “That becomes a safety issue for our students and staff.”

Information gathered later in the day is also helpful to school leaders when deciding whether or not to close school early or cancel afterschool and evening activities.

“If we think we can beat the storm and get students home before it gets worse, that is what we’ll try to do,” said Poirier. “On days when the roads are covered in snow and ice, we want to spend the least amount of time possible on the road.”

Weather forecasts play a pivotal role helping district leaders plan for possible changes in the school day.

“We look at several different weather models to help guide our decisions,” said Wiles. “But as we all know, forecasts can be hit or miss. We make the best decision we can with the information that we have at the time.”

Spreading the word
When school closures or delays are deemed necessary due to weather conditions, the district shared this information with students, parents, and the community in a number of ways.

Cancellations, delays or early dismissals are posted on the school district’s website, right on the homepage at www.guilderlandschools.org.

School closings are also announced on the following local media outlets: Channel 6, Channel 9 (YNN), Channel 10, Channel 13, FOX23, Channel 16 (Town of Guilderland), WFLY (92.3 FM), WGNA (107.7 FM), WGY (810 AM), WYJB (B95.5), WRVE (99.5 FM) as well as at the Times Union website: http://timesunion.com.

Closing information will also be sent directly to your email account via the district's School News Notifier (SNN) system if you have signed up for the closings and delays notification option. It will also be sent directly to your cell phone via text message if you have signed up for text message alerts. Please note that due to the volume of closing notifications sent over SNN, and precautions put in place by the recipient's email server, these notifications may not be received immediately.

In addition, GCSD will post notifications to our district Facebook and Twitter pages.

The district will also notify parents of school closings, delays, and early dismissals via the One Call Now telephone alert system. All GCSD parents with students currently registered in school have already been automatically entered into the One Call Now calling system based on contact information contained in the district’s student management system, SchoolTool. Parents do not need to sign-up for this service.

 

Always keep in mind that it is best to rely on more than one source of information when it comes to weather-related announcements. This is particularly true in situations that involve power outages, which can affect the district’s ability to send electronic notifications. Emergency preparedness agencies have advised that residents have access to a battery-powered radio so that they can receive information if other communication channels are unavailable.

A note for student drivers
On days of inclement weather when school is still in session, we encourage all student drivers to take extra precautions to drive carefully—take your time and allow plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Another alternative would be to consider taking the bus on days when road conditions are messy. There is always a seat for all GCSD students on district transportation. 

 

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