Snow days: children love them, while parents might be less enthusiastic.
The unexpected break from routine can be good for dreary winter spirits, but it’s also true that snow days can be an inconvenience for many families. Whether you love them or hate them, it’s good to know why and how the district decides whether to close during inclement weather.
The primary consideration when deciding to close is student safety.
Thick fog and icy or snow-covered roads create serious hazards for drivers. The Dexter district covers 88 square miles in Washtenaw and Livingston counties. Weather conditions can vary significantly between the east/west and north/south boundaries. Many of the Dexter bus routes include dirt and gravel secondary roads. The county road commission plows and salts primary roads first, and often doesn’t get to secondary roads before the morning rush begins.
In the event that the wind chill factor lingers around – 25 degrees Fahrenheit, the district may also close because extreme cold is dangerous for students who walk to school or have rural bus stops.
Sometimes parents feel frustrated by the timing of district closures. Too early! Too late! Everyone has an opinion. The district administration doesn’t want to close unnecessarily — conditions can often change dramatically overnight. But it isn’t prudent to wait too long, either. Bus drivers arrive at the garage by 6 a.m. since the earliest routes begin at 6:30 a.m. Allowing time for an extended commute due to weather, that means many drivers leave their homes by 5 a.m. The buildings and grounds crew need a couple of hours to clear and/or salt all the sidewalks and parking lots so they are safe for students and adults. This means the decision really needs to be made before 5 a.m.
Parents and students often wonder who makes the call to close. It takes a village, as the saying goes. District Superintendent Chris Timmis keeps in touch with superintendents from surrounding communities to monitor developing conditions. Both Chris and Sean Burton, Executive Director of Support Services, actually get in their cars in the wee small hours of those iffy winter mornings to drive roads on all sides of the district. Buildings and Grounds employees who work late and early shifts also share their observations about conditions. Community members can rest assured — it is not a decision taken lightly!
Even though your route may be passable, the decision rests on the overall conditions for the entire district.
In the case of a cancellation, the district notifies families in a variety of ways. They notify the Detroit television and radio stations, send a phone alert through their emergency calling system, and post the closing on Facebook (search for Dread Strong). The emergency calling system downloads phone numbers on a regular basis from the district’s student information system (Power School) at each building, so it’s important to update your phone number with the district any time you make changes.
Whether you cringe at that early morning notification of a closure or join your children’s squeals of delight, knowing all the thought that goes into the decision to close might make you feel a wee bit better about any inconvenience. If not, you might try hot chocolate. Or sledding. All the cool kids are doing it. …