Ground Hog Day & School Closings


It certainly has been an interesting winter with weather extremes that seem to move from foreshadowing global warming one day to a certain ice age the next. As they say, the only thing you can count on with weather in Wisconsin is that it will change.

In my early years as a school Superintendent my colleagues would share that school delay & closure decisions are “no win” and “no fun.” I would agree with the “no fun” part but keeping kids safe through common sense decision-making can help us avoid the “no win” area.

Deciding to cancel or delay school typically begins with the forecast the day before. In addition to the normal news channels, I receive special updates directly from The National Weather Service. They put together very specific, school targeted email blasts during any predicted challenging weather. These updates have proven to be very accurate and provide a “heads up” when rough weather may be arriving. If forecasts predict weather which could impact students’ ability to get to school safely I move into the next mode of information gathering. That starts with waking up a bit earlier – usually around 4:15 a.m. – to check out the latest conditions. Early communication includes contact between county Superintendents and the Sheboygan County Highway and Sheriff’s Department. That county information is shared with area Superintendents. The next step for me involves heading outside to drive the country roads to see conditions first hand. After checking the roads I will typically call our bus company and get their feedback on bus safety. Throughout this time I am keeping up with the updated forecast information with a particular focus on any “watches” or “warnings” which may be out there. All of this information comes together to inform my decision regarding possible delay or closure so that I can communicate with stakeholders by 6:00 a.m.

Early release weather decisions include many of the same steps above along with the added consideration of student safety when they are dropped off before their regularly scheduled time. The possibility of younger students being unsupervised with early dismissals along with weather forecasts and predicted road conditions all come into play when making this decision. Our most recent 2-hour delay involved consideration of a weather advisory ending at 9:00 a.m. and the opportunity for salting as temperatures were predicted to increase through the morning.

Although I am concerned about all students during inclement weather, high school students who drive to school gain an extra measure of that concern. The most important communication around this topic involves our parents and the choices they make with their students during inclement weather. You know your children and their transportation best, and your decision regarding keeping them home or delaying their day will always be supported in weather related decisions.

Now let’s hope for positive news from Punxsutawney Phil on February 2nd so we can avoid dealing the need for these decisions. #shadow

Enjoy this day,

Kevin Bruggink