Weather-related school closing information for 2014-15

snow image
Winter came early this year. It’s time for a refresher course on weather-related school closings.

This week’s inclement weather served as the perfect backdrop for a reminder about weather-related school closings. As the snow flies, sometimes rumors and misinformation accumulate with it. Just so everyone is on the same page, here’s a quick refresher course on our process (with one change for 2014-15):

  • Several district employees, including our directors of transportation and operations, travel our roads as early as 3 a.m. on mornings when weather could potentially cause a district-wide closing. They travel main roads as well as our district’s abundant rural roads (LCS is home to 225 miles of paved and unpaved roads). This means that at any given time, some roads will be passable as normal while others could be impassable. District officials must weigh not only the ability of our drivers to navigate the roads, but also be mindful that they are sharing the roads with other drivers in all types of vehicles.
  • In the early morning hours of an adverse weather day, district officials are in contact with local police departments and the Lapeer County Road Commission. At this time, we can gain a better understanding of the current road conditions as well as up-to-date information on plow schedules. Very often, superintendent also shares information with school officials from neighboring districts.
  • Because of our new transportation schedules, especially those created to extend learning opportunities for students (zero hour, seventh hour, etc.), some of our buses leave the garage as early as 5:30 a.m. Because of this, school closing calls will likely be made a little earlier than in the past. This will likely limit the amount of time available to consult with neighboring districts.
  • On occasion, school districts do close as a result of cold temperatures. We experienced this several times last school year. There is, however, no state law that mandates school districts close at a given temperature.
  • Some school districts have a wind chill threshold that determines if schools will be closed. For Rochester Community Schools, for example, the figure is minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit of wind chill; in Kent County in west Michigan, the figure is minus 20 degrees. Some districts use an actual temperature threshold, as opposed to a wind chill; in Kalamazoo, for example, schools are closed at minus 15 degrees and colder. Many other districts do not have a policy for cold weather closures, and simply play it by ear.
  • Lapeer Community Schools, like many of our neighbors, utilizes the National Weather Service Windchill Chart that dictates school closures when a combination of temperature and wind speed create conditions that can cause frostbite to exposed skin within 30 minutes. Given that standard, there is a variance of actual temperatures that can cause a closure. As an example, if the actual temperature were 5 degrees above zero with wind speeds at 40 miles per hour, schools would close (the wind chill would be minus 22 degrees). However, if the actual temperature were much colder, let’s say minus 15 degrees, schools would be open if there was just a trace of wind (i.e. less than 3 mph). In that case, the wind chill and the actual temperature would be the same — minus 15 degrees.
  • In order to have a uniform standard of temperature and wind speed, the District will utilize readings from one weather station: The Dupont-Lapeer Airport.
  • There is not a similar chart with respect to snowfall, as closures precipitated by snow accumulation are based solely on the condition of our roads – including our rural roads. With higher wind speeds leading to drifting, sometimes the snow amounts are not indicative of the actual condition of the roads.
  • As normal, school closing information can be found on LapeerSchools.org, our social media outlets (Twitter and Facebook), via local media stations including ABC 12, WEYI, the Detroit stations (TV and radio) and via our School Messenger (phone, e-mail and text) system. Our phone system is a little slower than social media, so people who check those sites will be the first to know. Those followers of Superintendent Wandrie (@suptwandrie) may be the first (first, first) to know.
  • Finally, closing schools is not a decision we, or officials from any school district, take lightly. We cannot predict the future and, as you all know, weather can change in an instant. That said, in every decision we make student safety will always be our primary concern.

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