by Dennis Dalman
Howling blizzards, arctic cold, near-zero visibility – all are factors that could cause disruptions to schools in the coming winter. That is why the Sartell-St. Stephen School District is asking all parents to be weather-aware, to plan for emergencies and to work with schools for the safety of all concerned.
The district recently announced its updated policy on weather-related closings, delays and dismissals so parents know what to expect.
Mike Spanier, interim superintendent for Sartell schools, said the district – as always – will coordinate closely with the Sauk Rapids-Rice and St. Cloud school districts, as well as all parochial schools, concerning weather-related emergencies. All districts, he said, will rely on updated weather information provided by the St. Cloud State University meteorology service. SCSU meteorologists release frequent weather forecasts and advise schools as to what is likely coming in the way of dangerous weather conditions.
A careful analysis of threatening weather conditions will result in judgment calls that can do one of three things: closings of all schools, delays in the start of the school day or early dismissals.
Spanier noted most people think of emergency weather as heavy snowfall, ice storms and extreme winds. But fog, he added, can also be dangerous for children getting to and from schools safely. Low visibility, whether through blinding snow or dense fog, is always a consideration in weather-related school safety, Spanier added.
If a weather-related decision is made through coordination of all schools in the area, the school districts will contact all local media, including social media, to broadcast the decision. Parents are advised to keep tuned in, especially to local radio reports, on days when there are winter watches or warnings of potentially hazardous weather on the way. Weather decisions will be posted also on the school district’s website, on Facebook and on Twitter.
School closings or late-school start times will, if at all possible, be announced the night before by superintendents of all three school districts in the area. However, when a weather-related decision (closing or late start) must be made in the mornings, school districts will make every effort to announce it before 6 a.m.
Spanier noted it’s important for parents and students to remember if there is a school closing, late start or early dismissal, all student activities will be cancelled for that day and evening, including Kidstop, community-education classes, early-childhood programs, adult basic education and area Learning Center classes.
“Winter weather and emergency situations are not predictable, and they may happen at any time,” states the Sartell-St. Stephen School District weather policy. “The purpose of the weather-related closing plan is to assist parents/guardians and students to be better prepared to deal with emergency situations and reduce their effects.”
Parent/guardian preparations are thus vital to the overall effort, Spanier noted.
Such preparations should include making special childcare arrangements and planning for them ahead of time, just in case.
School districts, working together, will go to great pains to make prudent weather-related school decisions, although the ultimate decision is always up to parents/guardians, the policy notes.
“Ultimately,” Spanier said, “it’s the parent/guardian who should make the final decision whether a child should attend school during severe weather.”