Why not close early?

I have been asked recently to explain the thought process we use when deciding whether or not to release students early.

There are a variety of reasons to be very cautious when calling school early. And, in fact, we believe calling school early creates a potentially dangerous situation in and of itself, especially with a snow storm like the one experienced two weeks ago.

Having buses on routes at times they are not expected is inherently more dangerous than at regularly scheduled times; drivers are not accustomed to seeing buses, and we have many rural roads with blind curves and corners. A snow storm, with its dramatically decreased visibility and slippery conditions, makes that danger more pronounced.

Many parents in our district work outside the community and many also have long driveways in rural areas. Dropping kids early risks leaving them in a snowstorm, sometimes walking considerable distances from street to home, with no adult present — kids as young as five years old.

By waiting until the end of the day, we ensure that kids arrive, to the best of our ability, when they are supposed to. Parents know where their kids are and are prepared to receive them.

Do we risk stuck buses once in a while as we did two weeks ago? Of course. But parents and the school district have the knowledge that those student are in a controlled environment, with access to heat and communications, an adult presence, and with assistance not far away.

Having a bus get stuck is not something we hope for. But in weighing the risk of a stuck bus against potentially hundreds of students being dropped off in a snowstorm with no realistic way to verify they all made it in their front doors safe and sound, I would make the same decision every time.

Student safety is always our utmost concern. We will study how the snowstorm was handled and look for ways to improve for the next weather event. That said, I am deeply grateful for the patience families and staff have shown during this most unusual winter. It has not been easy, but I think I can say now with some level of certainty that it is over.

At least, I hope it is.

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