Winter Weather Transportation Notice
340 Mad River Park
Waitsfield, VT 05673
Phone: (802) 496-2272
Fax: (802) 496-6515
Brigid S. Nease, Superintendent Donarae Dawson, Special Services Director
Sheila Soule, Curriculum Director Michelle Baker, Chief Finance Officer
October 26, 2016
Dear WWSU Families,
It is hard to believe that our unusually glorious foliage season is officially over, and our winter weather is right around the corner. Before we know it, the snow will start to fall, and with all of its majestic beauty comes unpredictable weather! As you know, from time to time it becomes necessary to delay the start of a school day or close school altogether. Sometimes, reasons other than snow, such as power outages or freezing rain and sleet that arrive at precisely the wrong time can alter the schedule of the day. Of course, safety is always my top priority when making these decisions. The WWSU spans approximately 42 miles from Warren to Waterbury, and oftentimes the conditions can be quite different from one end to the other. My years of experience tell me that decisions to close school or not are often met with dissatisfaction, and I am hoping to do what I can to implement the best possible procedures in our supervisory union. However, we all know that our Vermont weather can be very unpredictable and often changes drastically in a short period of time or at the last possible minute. Sometimes a best judgement call just needs to be made. There are no absolutes.
I would like to take this opportunity to share with our families how these decisions are made. In order to officially count a day for state purposes, certain criteria must be met. Transportation costs also factor into the decision. We try to avoid paying for an additional day of transportation which can be very expensive, and happens if elementary schools are open when the high school is closed and vice versa. I must also give some consideration to whether or not the faculty at large will be able to arrive safely and if we will adequately be able to staff the school for the day. These are some examples of why if any three elementary schools need to delay or close, the entire supervisory union does the same. Also, if the high school needs to delay or close, then the entire supervisory union does as well. We need to have approximately 50% of our high school students attending to count the day, to maintain the regional calendar (including Barre Technical Center), to maintain adequate classroom instruction, and to be responsible with our busing costs and contracts.
I rely heavily on management at the Bus Barn when it comes to evaluating the weather conditions. We have our cell phones set up for alert text messages. If an alert comes in, Danny at the Bus Barn begins gathering information from the National Weather Service. If the storm has already arrived, he checks with all of the town crews for their feedback on their road conditions. Danny regularly monitors the following sources for forecasts and predictions: The Weather Channel, WCAX, WPTZ, NOAA, Weather Underground, VT Agency of Transportation 511 website, Agweb, Unisys Weather, Intellicast, CRWS, and last but not least … a stand outdoors! Danny calls me, reports the information, and together we decide between 4 and 5:30 a.m. how we will call the day. I try to begin my calls by 5:20 a.m. Laura Titus, my administrative assistant, calls the television and radio stations and sends out the Blackboard Connect messages.
We need to call a delayed opening when a storm hits at a time such that the road crews cannot get their jobs done and the roads simply are not ready for buses to travel on them on time. Please note that the WWSU administrative team voted unanimously to move our school delayed starts from 90 minutes to 120 minutes, or the full 2 hour delay, like the majority of Vermont schools beginning in the fall of 2015. We are now in year two of this change. Please plan accordingly. Delayed starts can be confusing for folks because often when you go out, the main roads will seem fine. Please remember that back roads can vary quite a bit.
The temperature can sometimes cause a delay. Freezing rain will cause both delays and closings more often than snowfall. If temperatures dip to -25 degrees with the wind chill factor, we will delay, if warranted, and even close if the predictions should indicate because of the risk of frostbite while waiting at a bus stop. Luckily, we do not see many arctic Vermont days!
Your building principal should have sent home detailed information explaining the best ways for you to receive information about school closings and delays as soon as it becomes available. WWSU uses a messaging and communication system called Blackboard Connect, which seems to work well for everyone. In addition to your personal message contacts, WCAX and other television channels, as well as radio stations, report all delays and closings statewide.
I would sincerely like to thank all of our WWSU families in advance for your patience and understanding in dealing with delayed openings and/or closed school days. I realize how frustrating it can be if conditions seem fine at your house or on your roads when I call a delay or closing. These decisions are made with all of the best available information possible, in a very short period of time, and taking into account the entire WWSU community. I will do my very best to keep school open whenever I can, while maintaining the safety and security of our greatest resource, our children.
Brigid S. Nease
Superintendent of Schools