School Closing Procedures
During the winter months and occasionally at other times of the year, we may find it necessary to close school for the safety of our students. The following information is designed to shed some light with regard to the process that we use in closing schools.
How the decision is made…
The decision to close school is made by the Superintendent with the advice of many others. On mornings when bad weather is forecast, school division employees begin checking the roads at 3:30 AM to 4:00 AM. We also consult with the local Sheriff's deputies, internet weather services, other school divisions, and the highway department. Each section of the county is checked since weather conditions can vary a great deal between the eastern and western areas. The determining factor in making decisions is whether or not it is safe for school buses to travel. Looks are often deceiving; therefore, the only way to make the determination is to ride on the roads.
Many times the situation is not clear-cut. Powhatan is often right on the line between rain and ice. In these situations, it could go either way depending upon the temperature. In cases where it is questionable, we try to err on the side of safety. We are not perfect, but we do our best to make the right decision.
The purpose(s) of a two-hour delay…
Sometimes we schedule a two-hour delay. This is done for several reasons, the most obvious being that if the temperature is forecast to rise above freezing, the ice should melt. Secondly, it allows a situation where the bus drivers have greater visibility because they are traveling in daylight. Thirdly, a two-hour delay is sometimes used to allow more time to observe a situation. For example, if the situation remains the same or worsens, schools can still be closed. Generally, some of our buses are on the road by 6:30 AM. We, therefore, try to make a closing or late opening decision by 6:00 AM. When there is a two-hour delay, these buses are on the road at 8:30 AM.
A word about early closings…
There are times when we need to close school early after the school day has begun. We only do this if it is absolutely necessary since we try to avoid sending children home if their parents are not there. Sometimes the weather dictates an early closing. Other times, the school may lose electricity or water. If parents work, they need to develop a plan for the care of their children if school lets out early. Arrangements for responsible adults to meet children at the bus stop should be in place prior to an emergency closing. Teachers need to be made aware of the need to place children on different buses if necessary.
When the decision is made to close early, it takes approximately one and a half hours for the buses to be in place and ready to leave. Bus drivers must be located and notified to report to work. Some bus drivers have other jobs during the day and must make arrangements to leave them. Dismissal times are staggered to allow for double run buses to return for the second pick-up. Please keep in mind that dismissal times are estimates. During bad weather, buses move slowly and may take a while to arrive home.
How to find out if there is a delay or closing…
When there is closing, delay, or early closing once school is in session, we notify major radio and television stations. We are allowed to post very brief messages regarding closings or late openings.
The school division subscribes to SchoolMessenger, a notification system that allows parents to receive notifications about school closings and schedule changes via text message, email and phone calls. To register, follow this link to SchoolMessenger.
In addition, we try to post the status of the schools on the division website. Please do not call the schools, central office, or the bus shop. Staff will unable to take your calls since they are busy trying to check on road conditions.
You need a Plan…
We would like to reiterate, once more, the need for working parents to develop a plan for the care of their children when they are not in school. When school closes, especially after the school day has begun, children need to know specifically where they are to go and what they are to do. Parents need to be very clear in instructing a child to do what they want them to do, such as, go to a grandparent or a trusted neighbor.