Emergency Closing Procedures
EMERGENCY CLOSING INFORMATION
The St. Marys Area School District recognizes that as we work to assure the safety of all of our students and staff, inclement weather can cause road conditions to be hazardous. Schools may open late, close early, or close for the entire day depending upon the severity of the weather. The decision to close or modify the school day is a very important one and is not made lightly. School emergency closings usually happen during inclement weather but could happen at any time of the year.
Parents need to arrange plans with their children (and a neighbor, childcare, employer, etc.) on what is expected should an emergency closing occur. Decisions to close or modify the school day are always a judgment call, however, the following information is provided to help parents understand how the St. Marys Area School District determines to cancel or modify the school day because of inclement weather.
- The Weather forecast is carefully monitored
- Conditions of roads and the ability of school buses to travel safely
- Condition of utility services such as electricity, gas and water
- Condition of students who may be adversely affected by emergency closures such as being home alone when guardians are at work
How is the decision made to close schools?
A decision to close or modify the day must be made by 5:45 a.m. (or earlier if possible) after a careful analysis of all relevant information. This is the time many buses depart from bus depots to begin transportation runs. The procedures for closing school for inclement weather are based on the assessment of many factors before the light of day. Some factors that are taken into consideration include:
- Road Conditions – Bus contractors evaluate the condition of roads around 5:00 a.m. to determine the degree of road safety. Generally, snow is not a primary reason for closing school. As long as roads are not drifting shut, it is possible to have school, even with a sizable snowfall.
- After bus contractors alert the district of road conditions, the district may contact PennDOT, and the city and townships to determine if roadways will be ready prior to 6:00 a.m.
- At times, the Elk County Emergency Management and the state or city police are contacted for information on road closings, floods and other situations that may affect transportation.
- Local scanners are monitored for warnings of adverse conditions such as major accidents that could cause long-term road closures.
- Weather forecasts are monitored. School is rarely canceled based solely on a prediction. Weather events must be occurring and deteriorating for school to be cancelled.
- Wind chill and air temperature are also taken into consideration. In most situations, if air temperature is 0 degrees to –10 degrees with a slight to moderate wind chill, we will likely have school. If temperatures are between –11 degrees and –19 degrees, the wind chill, weather predictions and road conditions will be evaluated to determine if it is feasible to have school. When air temperatures are –20 degrees, regardless of wind chill, school will probably be cancelled or delayed.
- Neighbor school districts within Elk County are consulted.
On days when conditions at 5:45 a.m. are not severe enough to cancel school, but weather reports or other indications suggest hazardous conditions may develop during morning transportation or during the school hours, bus drivers will be notified that it is a “storm alert” day. A storm alert indicates that drivers should be aware that extra caution should be exercised and to use their judgment if a portion of the route is not possible to complete. Drivers are instructed to inform the district of the roadways where transportation was not completed so the district may either provide alternate transportation with a four-wheel drive vehicle or provide excused absences to those who were not in attendance for the day.
Will We Close School if Conditions Worsen?
It is difficult to reverse the decision about opening schools without endangering students, even if weather conditions worsen. Once the decision is made to open the schools, parents rely on it and leave for work. Many students will return from unsupervised bus stops and to empty houses if students are sent right back home. An early dismissal could occur if conditions worsen during the school day, but all possible attempts will be made to give adequate notice to parents first.
Although the district staff does our absolute best through this process, no perfect decision exists. If you do not feel as though it is safe for your child to attend school, we advise you to use your best judgment on whether he or she should attend. Also, we would advise parents to discourage teenagers from driving in bad conditions and offer them alternatives if weather conditions worsen.
How is the Public Notified?
Information on school closings, delayed openings, or early dismissals due to inclement weather and other emergencies will be announced via the following sources:
We Call You:
St. Marys Area School District utilizes an automated emergency text/email notification system that allows school district administrators the ability to distribute a message to the cell phones and/or computers of all students within a very short time.
In the event that you do not receive a phone call or text message from the emergency system, please contact the school that your child attends and ask for instructions on how to create a Power School login to receive emergency notifications.
School District Website:
In the event of a weather-related problem or other emergency, parents can also check the St. Marys Area School District website (www.smasd.org) for a special message on the home page. If there is a school closure, late opening, or early dismissal, a message will appear on the webpage.
St. Marys Area School District
Information about school closings, delayed openings, or early dismissals due to inclement weather and other emergencies will be announced via the following sources:
WPSU Clearfield/State College
WWCP-FOX 8 and ABC 23 Altoona/Johnstown
WKBI/W94FM St. Marys
WDDH St. Marys
It is hoped that this explanation helps everyone understand the process that our district staff uses to make the best possible decision for everyone in our district.