Mid-term reports, dealing with winter conditions

Last Friday students received their Semester One Mid-Term Reports and were asked to complete the Response Form that accompanies them. This form needs to be signed by a parent and returned to the students’ Day One, Period One teacher. We would like to have these forms returned to us by November 30 so that we can file them in the students’ Ontario Student Records file (OSR.) Students who were absent on Friday should see their Day One Period One teacher to get their report cards. Students who have a spare in first period can get their reports in the office if they were absent on Friday, and they should return their completed Response Forms to the office as well.
We received a little reminder from Mother Nature last Friday as well, letting us know that winter is not far away and that it is time to start getting ready. So, I thought that perhaps this week I should review our inclement weather policies and procedures.
The decision to cancel buses and close schools is made after consultation amongst bus contractors, the roads crews, and school administrators. We try to do this as early as possible so that we can announce the cancellations in a timely manner. Normally, we try to have a decision by 6:30 a.m. so that the announcements can be on the radio by 7:00. However, it is not always possible to do this. Snowsqualls are very unpredictable and sometimes we have relative calm up until 7:00 and then squalls set in, causing us to make the decision far later than we would like.
Our normal procedure when we cancel the buses is to close the elementary schools and keep the high school open for study purposes only for students and staff who can safely get there. This means that the building is open, but there will not be any classes, since the majority of our students are bus students and the majority of our staff live outside of the Exeter area. This is true for the elementary schools as well, and we do not want students or staff taking unnecessary risks trying to get to school in bad weather.
My rule of thumb with South Huron is that the school stays open unless the highways are closed or we lose power or water. Students can come in to pick up books or homework and to get help from any teachers who have made it in, but since most of our staff live out of town, there will be relatively few staff in the building on snow days.
Bus cancellations and school closures are announced in several ways. The notices are emailed to radio and television stations (provided we don’t lose our electricity), but the best source of information is our school or board web-site. Assuming that parents or students have internet access, the information can be found at one of the following web-sites: www.shdhs.ca, www.yourschools.ca, and www.ourschoolbuses.ca/delaysandcancellations.htm. All three of these web-sites should have the same information about which buses are cancelled and which schools are closed.
As I mentioned earlier, most of the radio and TV stations in the area will get the cancellation information as well, but we recommend that students, parents, and staff listen to either AM 980 in London or FM 102 in Wingham. In the event that we have to change or update the information, or in the event of a power outage that prevents us from emailing the information, these are the two stations that we will call.
I would like to caution students and parents about one source of information that was rather confusing last year. The A Channel announced bus and school cancellations by running a notice across the bottom of the TV screen. However, the announcement was rather general and their intent was for viewers to go to the A Channel web-site for more specific information. For example, if buses were cancelled or schools were closed anywhere in the Board, the announcement sometimes read “Avon Maitland District School Board: buses cancelled and schools closed.” They expected viewers to then go to their web-site or listen to their news telecasts to find out which buses were cancelled and which schools were closed. This created considerable confusion at times for some of our students and parents when schools in our area were open but other AMDSB schools were not. Hopefully that won’t happen this year.
Finally, I would like to remind students and parents of the AMDSB policy when bad weather arises after students have arrived at school. We do not generally send students home before the usual dismissal time. First of all, if the weather is bad and road conditions have deteriorated, the last place we want students is out on the road. We will instead keep them at school where it is safe and warm until the weather conditions improve and it is safe to send out the buses. Secondly, the local road crews know when our buses will be on the road, and they try to make sure that the roads have been cleared. If we send the buses out early, the roads may not have been plowed. Lastly, we need to ensure that someone is at home, particularly for younger students, and we do not want to risk sending them to a home where the doors may be locked and no one home. In a worst-case scenario, we would keep students at the school or find billets in town, rather than risk sending them out in horrible weather.
If you have questions or concerns about these procedures, please contact me or your elementary school principal.