I really love Iowa except for its winters. The early morning school cancellation decision is the bane of a superintendent’s existence! I haven’t met an administrative colleague who enjoys being up early to check roads, obsess about forecasts, huddle with transportation directors, or call and text neighboring districts. I am pretty sure students (and some staff) enjoy snow days much more than their superintendents do!
When severe weather is expected, the transportation director and I will be monitoring hourly forecasts, such as those from NOAA, which tracks temperature, wind speed, wind chill, and different types of precipitation hourly by zip code. Timing is very important as we consider when and where bus routes run. We will attempt to communicate any delay or cancellation decision before 6:00 A.M. and get the word out through different channels: WENS (school text/email notification system), various local TV and radio stations, and the school district website and Facebook page. On rare occasions a severe or lasting storm might lead us to make a weather call the night before school.
We will always make the best decision we can, putting student safety first and protecting instructional time next. A key decider for us is whether the district can safely and successfully run bus routes. There undoubtedly will be times when school is in session when the weather isn’t very nice. Welcome to Iowa! We understand the district covers quite a bit of geography, and conditions can vary in different parts of the district. If parents do not feel their student(s) can safely get to school on a day school is in session, we ask that they politely communicate with the school building office that their student(s) will not be in attendance that day.
If school is canceled for inclement weather, typically school events will be canceled as well. If conditions improve throughout the day, optional high school practices or rehearsals may be allowed. Coaches and sponsors will understand that safety comes first.
Making up snow days always generates a lot of questions. Students are now required to receive 1,080 hours of instruction in a school year. Indianola CSD’s calendar exceeds the minimum requirement, so it is possible that some snow days might not have to be made up at the end of the year. Additionally, Iowa Code allows senior students to be excused from making up snow days with school board permission. The Indianola CSD School Board will act on any adjustments to the published school calendar.
Finally, there is one small change from past practice regarding school delays. In the past there was a statement in student handbooks saying that Wednesday early outs for staff development would never be canceled if school were in session. That statement was removed to allow us to make the best decision possible on late starts for bad weather. There could be a Wednesday when a two-hour delay would allow us to attend but not have an early out. Carlisle and Norwalk Schools both had days like this last year.
If you read to the end of this somewhat dry blog, congratulations! I just wanted to explain the process we go through in making these decisions. There definitely are days when it is not an easy call.