USD 443 reminds parents of inclement weather policy
As winter nears, Dodge City Public Schools remain very aware of the impact of inclement weather on the safety of children and its overall effect on the learning environment in schools.
“Cold weather by itself, without snow, rain, or other precipitation, rarely necessitates a change in schedule,” Superintendent Alan Cunningham said.
According to Cunningham, every school bus is heated for student safety and the district now uses an anti-gel agent in the diesel fuel that runs in the buses. Each building has HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems designed to provide a comfortable heating level in each classroom.
The Superintendent of Schools is ultimately responsible for the decision regarding changes to the regular school schedule due to inclement weather. However, the decision is made with the advice of several key personnel, most importantly the Transportation Supervisor’s determination of whether or not buses can run safely.
Also, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency responsible for monitoring the nation’s weather, reports any potentially hazardous weather to the schools – in advance, if possible, and updates that information as needed. The regional office for the Kansas Department of Transportation also advises the school district regarding weather situations and road conditions, as do the Dodge City Police Department and the Ford County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Cunningham, the district must consider the welfare and well-being of 7,000 students and 1,100 employees. Factors contributing to this decision include the ability for traffic to pass safely at schools, availability of supervision at home if students are dismissed before normal times, and availability of food at home if parents are not able to get home.
“A decision to dismiss school early due to weather is complicated. Again, factors concerning warmth, safety, supervision, and nutrition factor into any decision. If it is determined that a majority of students may face difficulty in being unsupervised at home because parents cannot leave work early, then the safest alternative is to remain in school,” Cunningham said.
The best resource to stay informed of any school cancellations or early dismissals is the free Dodge City Public Schools mobile app. It can be downloaded either from Google Play for your Android device or the iTunes store for your Apple products. Once downloaded, users can indicate they want to receive messages from Dodge City Public Schools, as well as specific schools. In the event of bad weather or any other sort of emergency, the information will be posted there first.
In addition, Channel 21, the district’s PEG (public, educational and government) channel, is updated, as is the main page of the school district’s web site (www.usd443.org), Facebook and Twitter pages. Finally, local radio stations are notified, and broadcast that information as time allows.
“Parents are always the best judge of what is best for their children. While school may continue to be in session, parents may keep children at home if they feel the weather conditions are unsafe,“ Cunningham said. “They may also, at any time, pick up their children from school for the same reason. There is never a penalty, attendance or otherwise, for parents caring for their children’s welfare in the manner they see fit.”