Ice, sleet and dangerously cold conditions swept through our state this week, closing schools and giving boys and girls a surprise winter break.
We are halfway through the winter and hope the worst of it is behind us.
Even if it is not, we are fortunate in Oklahoma in our schools not being as affected by inclement winter weather as schools located in the mountainous and northern areas of the country.
We are further aided by Oklahoma school boards being wise to build in “snow days” into their school calendars so that no, or relatively few days have to be tacked on to their calendars at the end of the year.
By law, Oklahoma schools must provide students 175 days of instruction which, coincidentally, is the nation’s shortest school-year requirement.
When bad weather strikes, school administrators must make the tough decision on closing schools. The ultimate deciding factor is the safety of the children and staff and whether everyone can travel to and from school safely.
School location or bus access is also a factor when deciding to close or delay a school opening. While it may appear as if main roads or highways are clear that usually is not the case in neighborhoods or on school grounds.
Before a decision is made, school leaders look at the forecast or current conditions from resources such as the National Weather Service, Accu-Weather and local news stations; transportation personnel tour various roads in the area, bus stops, walking routes and also speak with county and state officials.
As soon as a decision has been made, members of the community are alerted through various means such as official school Web sites, TV and radio stations. Various safeguards are in place to make sure information is accurate and up-to-date. All decisions are made as early as possible.
School leaders take very seriously their responsibility of ensuring boys and girls have every available opportunity to be in class learning, but also safe and out of harm’s way.
- Sandy Garrett, state schools superintendent