How Are School-Closing Decisions Made in Rochester?
Here are the procedures used and the factors that help determine when school will be closed or delayed in Rochester.
The first weather-related school closing of the year on Monday, along with bus delays on Tuesday, have prompted questions on Patch about school-closing procedures in Rochester Community Schools.
The district details the procedure in a document about Emergency Closing Information on its website. Here's what it says:
"The foremost factor in the decision to cancel school is student safety," according to the district's plan. The district's superintendent — in this case, interim Superintendent Tresa Zumsteg — consults with the Grounds and Maintenance and Transportation departments, the National Weather Service and other area superintendents in making the decision.
When is the decision made?
District personnel drive throughout the district between 3 and 4 a.m. to assess road conditions.
What factors are considered?
The district encompasses 66 square miles — including many subdivisions north of Dutton Road with only dirt roads. These subdivisions send children to eight of Rochester's 21 schools. If road conditions are such that the district determines driving would be hazardous for buses and student or parent drivers, the district will be closed.
What about the temperature?
The district will close schools if temperatures were deemed to be dangerous for student walkers: that threshold is reached when the wind chill factor is at minus-25 degrees or colder.
Which weather forecast does the district use?
Why not a 2-hour delay?
Here's what the school-closing plan has to say about this option: "This option has both positive and negative aspects. On the plus side, students would not miss a whole day of school. On the negative side, parents often drop their children off at the school at the regular start time, thinking that someone will be available to look after them until school starts.
"Another drawback is the circumstance where conditions have not improved in the two-hour period and the district has to cancel the entire day anyway. However, if it appeared that a two-hour delay would provide an opportunity to get students to school safely, the district would consider this option."
On Tuesday morning, several buses were delayed; some were not able to transport students at all. This information was posted on the district's website; students were not going to be penalized if they could not be transported to school.
There were reports of buses and vehicles stuck in some of the northern roads in the district.
Treacherous conditions on Sheldon Road forced the closing of Hugger Elementary School on Tuesday morning.
Fewer than 100 school closings were reported in southeast Michigan, according to wxyz.com. Several schools in Oxford and Clarkston, as well as Romeo Community Schools, were closed.
On the Rochester Patch Facebook page on Tuesday morning, several parents expressed their frustrations — with the weather, the roads, the bus delays and the decision to keep schools open.
"Weather-related decisions are among the most difficult that a district ever has to make," Zumsteg wrote in an email to the school community last week, after buses were delayed because of snow and ice. "
"Please be assured that we make every attempt to make the best decision in a timely fashion. Sometimes circumstances work against us.