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Inclement Weather

School Matters:  Inclement Weather

The oldest village elder was asked each year if the upcoming winter was going to be mild or bitter so the people could prepare.  The chief elder was concerned with this responsibility because he realized his people would suffer if he was wrong.  He told his village the winter might be bad so everyone should collect firewood.  To help him make a better decision, he contacted the National Weather Center and asked their opinion.  The officials predicted a severe winter.  The elder went back to his village and said the winter might be even worse, so they collected even more firewood.  Later that night, the Weather Center called the elder and said the winter might be even worse than originally predicted.  Again the elder told his village to collect even more firewood because it might be an epic winter.  The next day, the director of the National Weather Center met with his colleagues and recommended that they tell the entire world to anticipate the worst winter in history.  When asked for the factual basis for his prediction, he gave this explanation:  “The elders of a local village possess an ability to predict the severity of the winters.  They have been collecting firewood like crazy over the last two days because they think the winter is going to be bad.  I think this may be the worst winter we have had in a century!” 

 

It is getting to be that time of year when the weather will have an impact on the school day and we will be required to make a decision to cancel school, dismiss early, or have a delayed opening.  We fully realize that some parents and community members believe we attempt to predict the weather in the same fashion I described above; however, we actually use a very systematic approach to making a decision on whether to close school or not. 

 

It is a good time of year to review this process and to share information with our parents and community members.

 

First, we understand that our decision to close or remain open is an important decision.  Placing students and staff on icy and dangerous roads can result in a variety of safety issues; however, cancelling schools can force working parents to miss work or have children left unattended at home because some of our parents must work to pay the bills. Also, we want to be careful and not miss an inordinate number of days because many of our students need every possible day in school.

 

Second, each of our communities can experience a very different type of weather on the same day.  Although the county is relatively small, our ability to clear all primary and secondary roads may vary dramatically depending on the actual weather.  Often, one area of the county will dictate the closure of school while we could go in other areas; however, it is not practical for us to close only the attendance area experiencing the bad weather, so we must close the entire district.

 

Third, we have the School Messenger alert system that will provide a text, email, or phone call to parents and community members notifying them of any modification to the school schedule. 

We strongly encourage parents and interested community members to keep your information updated on the system and make sure we can contact you.  Parents and community members can update information by calling the school or central office. 

 

Fourth, we use a number of weather stations and databases for information enabling us to make an educated prediction on the weather.  In addition, we are in constant communication with the surrounding counties where most of our inclement weather originates. 

We have staff and community members throughout the county, law enforcement, road crews, and TDOT officials who provide us current and first-hand updates on weather conditions in virtually every area of Hamblen County.  Even with all of this information, we sometimes make a bad decision but we do pull information from many sources to make an educated decision.

 

Fifth, we can certainly understand the frustration of parents when it seems we have made a bad decision.  After taking a number of calls, we normally begin the conversation with irate parents with a common statement:  We accept the fact that we are not standing in your driveway, we are horrible weather forecasters, we understand that we are not very bright, and we understand that your dog would probably make a better decision than we have made. 

We truly appreciate community feedback and we encourage parents to communicate with us; however, on many of these days we are extremely busy communicating with a variety of individuals to ensure that students and staff are safe.   We are often heavily involved in the process of contacting bus drivers, schools, TDOT officials, and law enforcement.  We want to focus the majority of our attention on making sure our children and staff are safe.              

 

Sixth, we attempt to make the decision on school closures early if we can.  We like to make the decision by 6:00 p.m. in the evening if we have a reliable weather forecast of impending inclement weather; however, if the decision must be made in the morning, we attempt to do so by 6:00 a.m.  We want to get the information on the evening and morning news as quickly as possible so parents can plan adequately for childcare if necessary.

 

Regardless of the situation, our primary mission is to ensure the safety of our students and staff.  We want to be in school whenever we can, but we do everything in our power to keep staff and students off dangerous roads.  Hopefully, it will be a mild winter, but I suspect we will have to make a number of calls on inclement weather.  We appreciate your understanding as we have to make these calls.   Remember:  School matters!

 

Jeff Perry, Superintendent

Hamblen County Schools

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