If inclement weather results in school closings, the following radio stations will broadcast the details: WBEN, WXRL, WJYE, WHTT, WYRK, WWKB, WGR; and television stations WKBW, WGRZ, and WIVB. The decision to close is usually made by 5:30am.
Our district staff understands that our decision to open or close schools has a big effect on families. We also understand that our students are better served academically and socially by being in school. But, as always, our top priority is the safety of our students.
How do we make our decision?
We gather as much relevant information as possible and base our decision on that analysis. This includes:
This information is evaluated in a context that accounts for time. A heavy snowfall from early evening that ends at one in the morning will probably be plowed and cleared early enough to safely operate schools. A moderate snowfall that starts at four in the morning and has created a plowing backlog at 5:30am presents a different situation. There are no specific rules or limits involved and most of the measures involve an ongoing evaluation. Other schools are checked, as we share many services through our BOCES, share students at private and parochial schools, and overlap on roads and transportation routes. The wind chill scales were recently revised to reflect better evaluations of risk for exposure to severe low temperatures. We prefer not making the decision based on weather predictions that are not always accurate. At times the forecasters "hype" the message to assure that the public is alerted and to gain viewer attention. The media's predictions are evaluated along with data available from the Internet, forecasting services, and statewide emergency service systems.
Who makes the decision?
As superintendent of schools, I am responsible for the final decision, based on the above factors and recommendations from the director of transportation.
How is the public notified?
Up-to-date information is provided by phone to the various radio stations WBEN, WXRL, WJYE, WHTT, WYRK, WWKB, WGR; and television stations WKBW, WGRZ, and WIVB.
When is the decision made?
We try to make the decision by 5:30am. That way we can notify the media and start our phone tree calling. Shortly after that, parents are leaving for work, drivers are leaving for routes, and we risk leaving students in an unsupervised situation.
Will we close schools if conditions worsen?
Please keep in mind that even if weather conditions worsen, we cannot reverse our decision without endangering students. Once we make the decision to open schools, many parents leave for work. If we sent students back home many would return to unsupervised bus stops and empty homes. After we arrive at school, we may have an early dismissal, but we would provide adequate notice to all parents first. We also need to get students back from more than 80 different locations in and around Erie County. That process alone requires at least one and one-half hours of lead-time to accomplish. All of our buildings have emergency generators and systems to maintain them. They are safe even when there are power failures or service outages elsewhere in the community. We would not leave children unsupervised; school is the safest place to have them while we contact parents and make arrangements for a safe return home.
Although my staff and I do our best in this process we know that no perfect decision exists. If you do not feel as though it is safe for your child to attend school, use your best judgment on whether he or she should attend. Also, discourage teenagers from driving in bad conditions.
We hope that this explanation helps everyone understand the process that our district staff uses to make the best possible decision for all in our district.
Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools