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As we reach another winter season, I'd like to inform you as to how decisions are made regarding whether to have school or not due to inclement weather. Our District staff understands that our decision to open or close schools in bad weather has a big effect on families. We also understand that our students are better served - both academically and socially - by being in school. But, as always, our top priority is the safety of our students.
How Do We Make Our Decisions?
Please understand that we make the decision to open or close the schools in bad weather based on a careful analysis of all relevant factors, such as:
- Information on road conditions from our transportation staff, the City of Marshalltown and Marshall County
- Amount of snow and ice accumulated.
- Forecast - whether precipitation is continuing. We pay particular attention to information coming directly out of the National Weather Service office.
- Building conditions (such as whether we have electricity and heat)
- Parking lot and sidewalk conditions. Administrators talk to maintenance and custodial staff members who are responsible for clearing and treating school parking lots and sidewalks.
- Temperature and wind chill. This is an extremely important consideration as some of our students walk to school and some must wait outside for the bus. Once wind chills reach -25 degrees and/or raw temperatures approach -15 degrees we begin to have serious consideration as to whether a late start or early dismissal may be advisable or whether or not school should be held.
- Weather predictions. We prefer not making our decision based on weather predictions, which are not always accurate. Sometimes this is unavoidable and in doing so we'd rather error on the side of safety.
- What other area school districts are doing. We share information and consult with other local school districts and check whether they are opening or closing. As most are aware, the Marshalltown Community School District is much more urban (city) than rural. This is significantly different than all of our neighboring school districts that are comprised of mostly rural residences and roads. For this reason, there is the possibility that our schools may be in session when other surrounding districts are not.
Who Makes the Decision?
As superintendent of schools, I am responsible for the final decision, based on the above factors and recommendations from our Directors of Transportation and Buildings & Grounds.
How Is The Public Notified?
Immediately when a decision is made, we notify the public in several different ways. Notifications are posted on the MCSD website, www.marshalltown.k12.ia.us, on the District Facebook and Twitter pages, emails are sent to all parents through Infinite Campus (Campus Portal) and local media also receive notifications to post. Parents can also sign up to receive text notifications through their Infinite Campus account here. When there is an early dismissal, we will also use phone call notifications.
When Is The Decision Made?
My goal is to have a decision made no later thanso we can notify parents through our District messaging system, media through radio and television, and post the decision on our website. If I wait longer to announce a closing, some parents may have already left for work, leaving their children unsupervised.
Will We Close School If Conditions Worsen?
Keep in mind that, even if conditions worsen, we cannot reverse our decision in the morning without endangering students. Once we make the decision to open the schools, many parents rely on it and leave for work. If we then send students right back home, many will return to unsupervised bus stops and empty houses. If conditions get worse during the school day, we may need to have an early dismissal, but we will give adequate notice to all parents first.
Although my staff and I do our absolute best in this process, we know that often no perfect decision exists. If you do not feel as though it is safe for your child to attend school, use your best judgment on whether he or she should attend. Also, discourage teenagers from driving in bad conditions and offer them alternatives if weather conditions worsen.
I hope that this explanation helps everyone understand the process that our district staff use to make the best possible decision for all in our District.
Dr. Theron J. Schutte, Superintendent
Marshalltown Community School District