Anticipating volatile winter weather, the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) has put together an action plan to notify families of school closures or delays and keep students and staff members safe.
LWSD uses multiple methods to contact parents or guardians about weather-related closures, delays or changes in bus routes.
“We try to provide plenty of ways for parents to learn about any possible closures or delays,” said LWSD communications director Kathryn Reith. “For parents who want to seek out the information themselves, as early as possible, the information is posted on the district’s Web site and school Web sites, sent to television/radio stations and posted as a recording on the district’s main telephone number. The district will use School Messenger, a recorded phone message and e-mail system, this year, to contact families directly.”
School Messenger will also be used to contact families directly if early closures occur because of weather conditions, Reith stated.
The district makes decisions about when to close schools or delay the starting times, based on the following processes:
“We contract with a weather consultant for district area-specific weather information and storm alerts,” said Reith. “In addition, on days when inclement weather might impact school schedules, district staff members drive roads all over the district to give input to the central office regarding the possible weather impact. If we are looking at a possible closure for the day, the driving takes place in the very early morning hours, so the decision can be made with input from people who have had real experience in the conditions.”
Also, said Reith, “All school buses have two-way radios and GPS tracking. We can locate all buses and hear from them if they are having trouble in the weather conditions. That way, we can get another bus or needed help to any bus that’s having trouble.”
What about a worst-case scenario, children getting stranded at a school because the weather is so severe that buses can’t take them home?
“Schools have emergency supplies to last for three days in case of disaster,” said Reith. “In addition, we have generators at schools that help keep essential services available at designated areas of the schools.”
Meanwhile, there are things that parents and guardians can do to help students stay safe and healthy in winter weather.
Reith suggested, “Make sure they are dressed properly for the current weather and potential weather before leaving for school. Too often, kids think fashion first, rather than safety and comfort.”
Reith added, “Families with students who ride the bus will receive a postcard in late November with the information on what bus stop to go to, when limited bus routes are used because of the weather. Keep the postcard in a safe place so you can refer back to it when bad weather hits.”