How Does WDC Decide When to Cancel or Delay School?
Lee Westrum, Superintendent, WDC Schools
As we head into December and the heart of winter, I thought it would be timely to explain the process that WDC Schools uses to close or delay school for severe winter weather. As superintendent, I make the final decision as to whether or not school will be closed or delayed. I do this however, with a lot of input from people with important information and after thoroughly reviewing the numerous resources available to me.
I typically start monitoring emerging winter weather systems 12 to 18 hours before they are scheduled to arrive in the Wadena-Deer Creek area. This includes watching television weather reports as well as viewing online weather websites such as weather.com and the National Weather Service.
After heading out myself to check the conditions of the rural roads, I speak directly with WDC Transportation Director Tim Wohlert (who also checks the roads) and superintendents from our neighboring school districts. These conversations typically take place very early in the morning between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m., as a decision whether to close or delay school needs to be made no later than 6:15 a.m. Tim Wohlert also has contacts in the highway department and in other school districts that provide us with valuable information about weather and road conditions in the area. At times it may be possible to make a decision to delay the start of school the evening prior. This can occur when we have substantial snow and wind in the evening and it is forecasted to continue into the next day.
After considering all the available information I make a decision. It is not an exact science, but as you can see, a lot of time and thought goes into it and ultimately, student safety is the determining factor. In the event that I am out of the district, High School Principal Tyler Church or Elementary Principal Louis Rutten will make the final decision regarding cancelling or delaying school.
We use many methods to communicate school delays or cancellations to parents, students and staff. First of all, WDC uses the Honeywell Instant Alert automated messaging system to contact parents, students and staff by phone, text and email. Local radio stations such as KWAD and KSKK will announce WDC school delays and cancellations and television stations out of Minneapolis such as WCCO 4, KARE 11, FOX 9 and KSTP 5 will also scroll delays and cancellations on the bottom of the screen and list them on their websites.
I would also like to mention the great job that the WDC bus drivers do. Driving a car in the winter can be a challenge but driving a bus on our rural roads December through March is not for the faint of heart. And on top of that, they have a bus full of children that they are responsible for. Bus drivers have a tough job to start with that gets a lot tougher when the snow flies.
Another item that is very important however, is for students to be dressed appropriately for winter weather in the event that a bus would stall or get stuck and students would have to wait for another bus to arrive and take them to their destination. Parents that may need help securing winter clothes for their children can contact the Counselors or Social Workers at the school for assistance.
Hopefully we will have a mild winter that requires very few delays or cancellations for WDC, but if we do, we are well-prepared to make those decisions and make sure that our students get to and from school safely this winter.