School district considers more transparency in weather closure decisions

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Nick Crow
Thursday, January 16, 2014

JANESVILLE — The Janesville School District is considering sharing its definition of inclement weather so parents and school officials would have a better idea of when school might be canceled.

An administrative regulation document would define “inclement weather” as:

-- Snow accumulation of 5 inches or more immediately prior to the beginning of school.

-- Snow accumulation of 2 inches with a forecast of 4 inches or more during the day.

-- Drifting snow that prevents safe travel of buses and other transportation.

-- Severe ice conditions.

-- Severe low temperatures and wind chills.

-- Declaration of a weather emergency by state or local government.

Superintendent Karen Schulte would continue to make the final decision on school closures or delays, Assistant Director of Administrative and Human Services Mary Ann Kahl said.

The changes would not alter the board policy but would more clearly spell out the district's stance on weather related events.

“The more information our community has, the more transparent and clear the steps are,” Kahl said.

If approved, the inclement weather definition would be published on the school district website, she said.

The Janesville School Board will consider the document at it's next meeting Tuesday, Jan. 28.

The district's weather policy hasn't been altered since 1991, Kahl said.

“It's definitely time to review it again,” Kahl said.

Proposed modifications would include board policy that clarifies the means of communicating closure information.

“Most of the content of the policy hasn't changed,” Kahl said. “What has is how we communicate and have expanded on that.”

Radio stations are listed as the main media outlets to inform the public of school closings. If approved by the school board, that wording would be changed to “various media outlets,” including radio, television, Internet and telephone notification.

“What's very important for parents to know is how we communicate a school closing and that we have a planned strategy of how we make the decision,” Kahl said.

Kristin Hesselbacher, chairwoman of the school board's personnel, policy and curriculum committee, said she supports the measure because it clarifies the district's policies and procedures.

“I don't think there are any real changes to the policy itself, but the admin regulations will spell out more discreet steps on what conditions we would consider to close school,” Hesselbacher said.

Not all policies need administrative regulations, but for this policy publicizing the guidelines makes the reasons for school closings and delays more clear to parents.

“I think this should spell out a little better how we go about the process,” Hesselbacher said. “This was language that needed updating.”

Kahl said that the proposed changes must have two readings before the school board before they can be adopted.

“I think it's very proactive,” Kahl said. “It provides an explanation of how we come up with that decision (to close school.) The regulations are a guideline for administrative staff and a way to communicate with parents.”

Last updated: 3:33 pm Thursday, January 16, 2014

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