· Weather conditions are both variable and potentially extreme in Northeast Indiana; however, the safety of children will guide decisions regarding delaying or closing.
· Concrete rules do not exist in making decisions regarding variable and extreme weather; however, these guidelines will serve as a reference for Northwest Allen County Schools (NACS).
· NACS believes the public expects schools to be open and provide educational services as well as supervision and other services, such as meals, to its students.
· NACS believes all parents are committed to keeping children safe and these parents will dress their children appropriately for the existing weather conditions when sending their children to school.
· NACS recognizes that it is first and foremost a parental decision as to whether or not a child should attend school on inclement weather days.
· NACS respects the parent’s determination regarding his/her child’s attendance at school during inclement weather. If school is open, or delayed, because of inclement weather, the school will respect the parent’s decision to keep their child at home. Parents are expected to contact the school and inform school officials of their determination, and the student will be counted as absent, per Indiana code. Students who are absent due to inclement weather will be given the opportunity to complete their academic work in the same manner as an excused absence from school.
· On a normal school day, a delay and/or closing will be announced no later than 6:00 a.m.
· Following a delay, if the need to close should arise, it will be announced no later than 8:00 a.m.
· Following the district’s Twitter account, @NWAllenSchoolsFW, is the most immediate means of communication for school delays and/or closings.
· Delay/Closing announcements can also be found on the district’s website at www.nacs.k12.in.us.
· Media outlets that are contacted and informed of the delay/close decision include:
WANE TV – Channel 15
WOWO Radio – 92.3 FM
WLDE Radio – 101.7 FM
WPTA TV – Channel 21
WAJI Radio – 95.1 FM
WWFW Radio – 103.9 FM
WISE TV – Channel 33
WXKE Radio – 96.3 FM
WKHQ Radio – 105.1 FM
WFFT TV – Channel 55
WMEE Radio – 97.3 FM
WOWO Radio – 1190 AM
WBCL Radio – 90.3 FM
WBYR Radio – 98.9 FM
WGL Radio – 1250 AM
Delaying or Closing School is
Based on Multiple Variables
The need for driving slower and allowing for additional travel time does not necessarily indicate that conditions are unsafe for travel to or from school. It is understood that varying interpretations and opinions exist in terms of a “right” decision regarding whether or not to delay the start of school or close for the day. However, before a decision is made, as much information is gathered as possible, and it is made within the beliefs communicated on the previous page of this document. NACS is comprised of 108 square miles of northwestern Allen County; it is possible that one part of the district is experiencing safe conditions, while another part is not. Likewise, it is possible for other school districts to be experiencing different weather/road conditions than those within NACS.
Freezing Rain/Sleet and Dense Fog
The most unpredictable weather variables are freezing rain/sleet and dense fog. Freezing rain/sleet is temperature sensitive and, like dense fog, fast-occurring. Each begins and ends with little notice. When freezing/rain sleet are predicted or when dense fog appears, the decision regarding whether or not school is delayed/closed will occur at the latest possible time in an effort to observe the most current and local conditions.
Snowfall is more predictable than freezing rain/sleet. Meteorologists typically give predictions that include at least a 2-inch variance. Because of the variance in actual snowfall when compared to predicted snowfall, the decision regarding school status is not determined until the snow accumulation indicates a need for action. Such a decision, except in extreme situations, will generally be made in the morning.
Extreme Snowfall Situations
When snow accumulated to significant levels, or is at such a level with more snowfall predicted, then a decision regarding school delay/closing may be made the previous evening. A significant level is one in which local city, county, or state authorities have indicated that it is unlikely for streets, roads, or highways to be passable by the following morning.
Extreme Cold (see included chart from the National Weather Service)
· Temperature prediction is increasingly more accurate. NACS uses the hourly temperature predictions for its zip code from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (noaa.gov – we check conditions from both Fort Wayne International and DeKalb County airports). NACS also uses the Wind Chill Chart from the NOAA and the National Weather Service (included with these guidelines) showing when frostbite becomes a concern if bare skin is exposed to frigid temperatures for varying amounts of time.
· If the air temperature, as predicted by NOAA, is expected to be -10 degrees Fahrenheit or colder with a calm wind at 6:00 a.m., then a two-hour delay may be considered in order to insure that all buses started and are not experiencing mechanical difficulties. If the air temperature remains at -10 degrees Fahrenheit or colder at 8:00 a.m. with a calm wind, then school may be closed depending on how our buses are responding mechanically. Such a determination will be made as early as possible, including the possibility of being reported the previous evening.
Extreme Wind Chill (see included chart from the National Weather Service)
· Wind chill predictions are not as accurate as temperature predictions because of the additional variable of wind speed and the variances in wind speed by time and location. While NOAA observations and predictions that we receive are based upon the open conditions at Fort Wayne International and DeKalb County airports, these conditions can vary from actual conditions within the district. Local observations will affect the decision regarding delaying or closing school.
· Using the Wind Chill Chart provided by NOAA and the National Weather Service, severe wind chill concerns or frostbite emerge at wind chill temperatures at or near -20 degrees with 30 minutes or more of exposure. Since our walking zones typically are less than 30 minutes, wind chills warmer than -20 degrees typically mean we will remain on time or open. When wind chill temperatures are clearly and consistently colder than -30 degrees, it likely that we will delay or close. When wind chills are between these two extremes, then the decision will be made as late as possible in order to gather as much information about local conditions as possible. Regardless, the decision to delay or close is difficult because of the number of variables that account for the wind chill calculations as well as the variances observed throughout the district.
Delay schedules will nearly always be two hours in length because a two-hour delay does not disrupt the end of the day schedule. However, in order to reduce the likelihood of extending the school year due to school closings, three-hour delays will be considered, especially in the cases of freezing rain, sleet, fog, and extreme cold/wind chill, if the NOAA predictions indicate that an additional hour will make a difference in the delay/closing decision. Three-hour delays are rare, and would most likely occur in March after the daylight savings change occurs which causes us to lose an hour of daylight that had been gained prior to the daylight savings change (i.e., after the daylight savings change, a three-hour delay in terms of available daylight, is similar to a two-hour delay prior to the daylight savings change). Unfortunately, per Indiana code, a three-hour delay in starting times also requires a one-hour delay in dismissal times.
In order to comply with Indiana law, each school closing will result in a make-up day. The expectation from the State of Indiana is that school will be in session for a minimum of 180 days of instruction.
Below are answers to questions that have been frequently asked during the past five years.
Q. What are the delay options that will be considered in order to prevent make-up days?
A. Either 2-hour or 3-hour delays could be implemented. Please refer to information from your respective school in terms of starting and ending times for a 2-hour delay schedule and a 3-hour delay schedule. If you have not already done so, please develop alternate plans for child care. Alternate child care plans should accommodate the possibility of (a) school closing for the entire day, (b) the implementation of a 2-hour or 3-hour delay schedule, and (c) the early closing of school. The ultimate decision of whether school will be closed, delayed, or closed early is based on whether our buses can safely transport students on NACS roads. The decision on whether it is safe enough for teenagers to drive is a personal decision between each parent and teenager.
Two-hour delays are the most commonly used delay option because the State of Indiana requires a minimum number of days and a minimum number of minutes per day. A 2-hour delay complies with Indiana’s emergency situation daily minimum minute requirement.
If a 3-hour delay is implemented, which is possible in order to reduce the number of needed make-up days, an additional hour must also be added to the end of the day. This additional hour at the end of the day is required in order to comply with Indiana’s emergency situation daily minimum minute requirement.
It is extremely rare that school will be closed prior to the scheduled end of the school day. However, if weather conditions warrant closing school early, then school could be closed as early as 1:00 p.m. This option will be used only if extreme weather conditions jeopardize the ability of NACS to safely transport students to their homes/bus stops at the end of the day. If school is closed early on the same day that began with a delay schedule, then the state does not count the day towards complying with the 180-day minimum requirement.
Q. How are decisions about delay schedules and school closings determined?
A. The ultimate decision of whether school will be closed or delayed is based on whether our buses can safely transport students on NACS roads. The buses purchased by our school corporation maximize the various safety features to insure the safest possible transporting of our students. Likewise, our bus drivers participate in ongoing training opportunities to increase the likelihood of safe driving in various road conditions. Our buses and bus drivers must demonstrate proficiency at meeting Indiana State Police expectations on an annual basis. Despite the safety features of our buses and the training that our drivers receive, there are some road conditions that are not conducive for safe transporting of students. Typically, ice, drifting snow, and reduced visibility are the primary reasons for delays and closings.
Each morning between 4:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., road and weather conditions are monitored. At least three NACS employees are driving NACS roads to determine actual road conditions. Each of us drives on roads in different parts of the district so that a picture of the entire district is developed. Additionally, weather reports from multiple sources are monitored as well as information from city, county, and state road crews.
My goal is to make a decision regarding delays and closings by 5:30 a.m. each day. However, with changing road and weather conditions, sometimes the decision is made as late as 6:00 a.m. In some instances, a delay may be announced in order to afford more time to determine whether the changing road and weather conditions warrant a school closing. In these instances, a decision to close may be determined as late as 8:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m., depending on whether the original delay was 2-hours or 3-hours, respectively. On days that a delay schedule is implemented and later changed to a closing, road conditions either worsened, or despite the best efforts of county, city, or state road crews, roadways were not adequately cleared or treated. Ultimately, school will be in session only if our bus drivers can safely navigate buses on the NACS roads that must be traveled to transport our students.
Q. On some days when school is delayed or closed, my roads are fine, so why the delay or closing?
A. NACS is comprised of 108 square miles within Eel River, Lake, and Perry Townships in Allen County. Although conditions may be fine in one geographic part of the district, another part may be experiencing unsafe conditions. Weather forecasts and road conditions throughout the entire school district are evaluated before making a decision to delay or close school.
Q. Why do all of the school closings have to be made up?
A. The reason each school closing results in a make-up day is to comply with Indiana law. The expectation from the State of Indiana is that school will be in session for a minimum of 180 days.
Q. Can we extend each day a few minutes in order to make-up school closings?
A. No. In addition to being open a minimum number of minutes each day, Indiana law requires that schools must be open for student instruction a minimum of 180 days. To allow the lengthening of school days to serve as an option for making up school closings, a change in current law is required. In 2013-14, the State granted waivers permitting this action. However, this option is not in statute and the waiver applied only to the 2013-14 school year.
Q. Will Saturdays be used for making up school closings?
A. No. I did consider and investigate this option last school year and a few years ago. However, because of SAT and ACT test administrations, LEGO League/robotics team competitions, academic team competitions, speech and debate team competitions, band and choir contests, FFA and 4-H participation and competitions, culinary arts competitions, little league participation, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts activities, IHSAA tournament games, track meets, tennis and golf matches, baseball and softball games, and numerous other school and personal activities scheduled on Saturdays throughout March, April, May, and June, I will not recommend the implementation of Saturday school for the purposes of making up emergency/weather related school closings.
Q. Will graduation be rescheduled?
A. If the number of make-up days required by the State of Indiana extends beyond the current graduation date, then yes, graduation will be rescheduled so that all students can meet Indiana’s attendance requirements and Indiana’s graduation requirements before the ceremony. Our originally scheduled last day of school is May 29 and our currently scheduled date of graduation is June 7.
Q. Have steps been taken to reduce the need for extending the school year beyond the currently scheduled last day of school?
A. Yes. The 2014-2015 NACS calendar includes four potential make-up days within the school year (one potential make-up day on December 19, one on February 23, one on March 20, and one on April 24). If these make-up days are not needed, then these days will be treated as holidays. However, if the number of required make-up days exceeds the number of built-in days, then yes, the school year will be extended beyond the currently scheduled last day of school in order to comply with Indiana’s attendance laws.
Q. Is e-learning being considered as an option for making up days?
A. Yes, but much work must be completed before we can be approved to do so by the Department of Education or the State Board of Education. The first step is to insure that every student has access to high speed internet and a digital computing device that complies with minimum system requirements; at this point, we serve students who lack access to one or both. Unfortunately, there are some parts of the district that require access to a significant cellular data plan or a satellite dish to access high speed internet. In terms of access to a digital device, property tax cap losses prevent the district from resolving this issue in the immediate future. The second step is to design independent lessons that are comparable to the learning opportunities that would have been provided if school had been in session and not be comprised only of so-called “busy work.” To complete the second step, a great deal of time for professional development and course revision and redevelopment will be necessary to convert lessons into a digital presentation format that can be accessed and completed independently; this is a particularly difficult task to complete for our primary-aged children (K-3). We have received a grant to begin this work, and we are striving to have e-learning approved as an option before the 2016-17 or 2017-18 school years.