Few topics ignite the emotionalism of a community as much as the decision whether or not to close school due to weather. We treat this decision very seriously and seek complete information before making it- always prioritizing the safety of children above all else. The issue, at first, seems fairly simple. When we close school we place many families in the difficult position of trying to figure out child care and supervision of their kids. When we open school, people are put at risk due to dangerous weather and road conditions. Deciding what is right for everyone isn't so simple.
Thusly, we typically try to remain open and look to parents to make the final decision about sending their children to school. Weather related absences are almost always excused and teachers will do all they can to ensure that the school day is productive and meaningful for those that attend.
Here are some of the factors that contribute to our decision:
- Most parents have to go to work and they often have very few, if any, alternatives for their children if school is cancelled. This leads to some losing a day's pay or leaving their children alone.
- Parents who do not feel that sending their children to school is safe should keep them home and schools are directed to excuse any weather related absences. This way, families have a choice. If we close schools, that choice is removed.
- Most all businesses remain open during these cold, snowy days. People- including parents - all over town have to get to work and our staff would typically need to do so if they worked in the private sector.
- Late starts can cause havoc in a home when parents have to go to work two to three hours earlier than their young children. Again, what can they do with them? Early release causes similar challenges in reverse.
- Closing school opens the door to older students having a "free day" with many having unmonitored access to vehicles. With school open, parent or bus transport to school is often available to students keeping inexperienced drivers off the road.
- Our buses are well equipped to safely travel in the snow and First Student makes every effort to ensure that the vehicles are dependable and winter-ready.
- Typically, we are on the phone well into the night and very, very early in the morning getting reports on road conditions and weather outlooks. We work collaboratively with both Gering Public Schools and WNCC in making decisions.
- We do sometimes shut down our "country school," Lake Minatare, and all rural bus routes because those roads are sometimes not possible to traverse.
All that said, we have closed school multiple times over the past couple of years. There are times that the whole town basically shuts down and almost nobody is out and about. These are the times that make for easy decisions. Always predicting when those conditions will evolve is another story.
We appreciate your understanding and respect the decisions you make as families. Don't hesitate to contact District Office with any questions or ideas.
Inclement Weather Procedure
In the event of inclement weather, both First Student and school officials will check both city streets and rural bus routes and consult with the Scotts Bluff County Department of Roads to determine that bus travel is both safe and possible, then make a recommendation to the Superintendent of Schools. The Superintendent will decide if school needs to be cancelled or dismissed early and the local media and contacts at each school building will be notified. The school district will make every effort to review weather conditions and make closure determinations prior to 6:00 a.m. In the event of early dismissal students will be dismissed following the directions specified on the Parent-Student Permission Information Record Sheet filled out by each student's parent/guardian at the beginning of the school year. Parents and/or guardians, if you need to update instructions in regards to early dismissal (i.e. walk home, ride the bus, I will pick up, etc.) please contact your local school building.