Kansas experiences inclement weather throughout the winter season, and long-time residents are accustomed to these events. USD 475 follows the winter weather forecasts very closely and uses many different sources for weather information. In anticipation of the upcoming weather pattern forecast for later this week, USD 475 wants to take an opportunity to inform the community how decisions are made regarding school delays, cancellations, and early release.
District decisions regarding school late start, early release, or cancellations are not easily made. When a threatening weather event is forecast, the District begins looking at possible impacts to scheduled events and related travel. It participates in a “Weather Huddle” with Fort Riley the day before the forecasted event. Weather elements taken into consideration include rain, snow, ice, wind speeds, temperatures and wind chill. The Huddle includes stakeholders from Division and Fort Riley Garrison Activities as well as USD 475.
“USD 475 and Fort Riley have complimentary mission requirements, so we attempt to reach a collaborative decision the day before the event, if possible,” stated David Wild, USD 475 Chief Operations Officer. Over the last couple of years, Fort Riley has gone to use of a “two hour delay” rather than a 0900 duty call. Wild explains that the District uses a two hour delay to allow its bus schedules to continue in a phased schedule. The use of the ‘two hour delay’ by both the District and Fort Riley limits public confusion.
If the forecast is uncertain, decisions are often deferred until the early morning hours of the school day. This allows Wild time to drive roads and schools, receive feedback from maintenance crews working the schools as well as participate in another ‘call in’ Weather Huddle with Fort Riley. Ongoing consultations with Dr Eggleston, USD 475 Superintendent, are held before issuance of the final decision.
Wild adds, “We hope to make that final decision around 4:30 AM, before the District food service staff arrives at the Central Kitchen to begin preparing breakfast and the noon meal for the day.” District maintenance teams assemble and deploy sometime between 2 to 4 AM and its bussing partners also report early to help ensure timely transportation when school is not cancelled. Pushing out notices to staff, parents, as well as State and local media is a critical final step.
Wild adds that, in addition to Fort Riley, the District consults with its Maintenance and Bussing partners, District Safety & Security personnel, Geary County Emergency Operations and City Public Works when necessary. It also keeps up a courtesy exchange of information flowing with the USD 383 Manhattan/Ogden school District.
Wild concludes that it all comes down to the accuracy of the weather forecast. Forecast based decisions often appear foolish when weather does not follow the forecasted path and patterns. USD 475 also does not want to keep students out of school unnecessarily, as it impacts the quality of their education. USD 475 appreciates the continued support of the parents, staff, administration, and community. Student and staff safety is always the primary concern in these decisions, and we hope to provide you with the best communication in the most timely manner regarding these issues.