It’s hard to believe that we are already into November and a quarter of our school year is almost over. Mother Nature is reminding us that winter weather is around the corner so I will again take this opportunity to address our district snow day procedures. One of the many responsibilities that superintendents have is to call weather cancellation days or two-hour delays. I assure you that all superintendents take this responsibility seriously and consider a variety of data sources including weather forecasts, current conditions, and community consultations, to make these decisions. We do the best we can with the information that we have and a decision is made with the safety of our students and staff as the top priority.
Before we cancel school or call for a two-hour delay, there is quite a bit of groundwork that occurs. The first calls that are made, starting at about 4:30 a.m., include the school transportation and maintenance departments, the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Westfield Police Department, the Mayor, other superintendents in the area, and in extreme cases, Emergency Management. I ask about road and sidewalk conditions and the status of our school parking lots and walkways. I also text various staff members from around the city to learn about conditions in their neighborhoods. In some cases, the roads may be fine, but since approximately fifty percent of our students our classified as walkers, I also need to consider whether residents have had the opportunity to shovel and treat their sidewalks.
Getting the message out is our next task. To stay ahead of bus departures, we must get the word out before 5:30 a.m. I communicate with several central office staff members who circulate the message through our local television and radio stations, post the information on our district website and local cable channel 15, and notify our bus company. I then post notifications on our district Facebook page and send out a text message. My final step in this process is to send out an automated phone call through our School Messenger system. Unfortunately, these calls can take up to an hour to reach all our families and staff members. Text message really is the fastest way that families can be notified of a delayed start, early dismissal, or school cancellation. Families that haven’t signed up for text notifications should do so. You can participate in this free service by sending a text message of “Y” or “Yes” to our district code number, 67587.
Two years ago, our district implemented Alternative Structured Learning Days, or Blizzard Bags, that our staff developed to be used after our emergency closure days were utilized. For the current school year, Westfield Public Schools will again use the same format for Alternative Structured Learning Days. As of right now, our last day of school is set for Tuesday, June 16, 2020. If we were to use all emergency days this year, our last day of school would be Tuesday, June 23, 2020. After five emergency closing days, students would be instructed to use their Blizzard Bad assignments on all subsequent days that school is cancelled. However, this is the last year that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are allowing school districts to use Blizzard Bags. As a result, many districts, including Westfield, will start school before Labor Day moving forward.
In addition, I want to remind everyone that if it becomes necessary to call a two-hour delay on an already scheduled early release staff development day, the day will become a full day of school for students and that staff development will be postponed. When possible, this notification would go out the night before so that families are able to plan accordingly.
Finally, I want to remind all families that there is no school on Monday, November 11 in honor of Veteran’s Day. Thank you to all past and present members of the military for their service.
Superintendent of Schools
Westfield Public Schools