How Rochester Public Schools decide on snow days
(ABC 6 News) – The wintry weather as of late has prompted students and families to ask the question, how does a school district decide on when to cancel school and issue a snow day?
It varies for each school district, but Rochester Public Schools (RPS) superintendent Kent Pekel sent out a letter on Friday to students, staff, and families to explain how they decide on snow days.
First, Pekel says whenever there is the possibility of significant snow or other bad weather, he along with the district’s transportation manager, and other leaders connect at 4:30 a.m. to monitor multiple weather forecasts and evaluate the situation. A call to the National Weather Service in La Crosse, which monitors Rochester and southeast Minnesota, will also take place if it looks like school may be canceled.
Pekel says there are three primary factors that go into the decision to cancel school; road conditions, visibility, and projections for incoming weather during the course of the day with the highest priority being keeping students, staff, and families safe.
Not only does canceling school deprive students of important time for learning, but Pekel says it forces parents, or guardians of children who have jobs away from home, and are unable to take vacation or unpaid leave to find child care on short notice. Pekel also says the breakfast and lunch students receive at school is a source of support for their families.
Pekel says that once the decision has been made early in the morning, and buses are on the streets, it’s not possible to change course and call a snow day.
What about 2-hour late starts like many other districts implement? Pekel says due to the size and complexity of the district’s transportation system, the late starts are impractical and the choice to cancel school is generally all or nothing.
Two other points Pekel addressed was one, rumors on social media that RPS students were injured in bus accidents as a result of school not being canceled. Pekel said no reports of any injuries were made, which RPS takes seriously.
Second, while many were frustrated about the decision to not cancel school on Thursday, Dec. 15, Pekel says the ways that some people expressed their displeasure to him and other staff such as receptionists and office managers, was inappropriate even saying numerous phone calls included profanity and claims that the district is incompetent when it comes to student safety. Pekel says criticism comes with the job, but was shocked at how some community members acted.
Pekel says district officials work hard to balance priorities and to make decisions with incomplete information in a very short time. He said he’s heard the feedback from families and will keep it all in mind when making decisions regarding snow days in the future.
To read the full letter, CLICK HERE.