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Snow day call was unusual for Janesville schools

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
December 10, 2009
— Janesville’s new schools superintendent made an extraordinary decision Tuesday night. She canceled school for Wednesday.

Never in recent memory has the Janesville superintendent made that call so early. The district’s longstanding procedure is for the superintendent to decide around 5:30 a.m. on the day school is canceled.


Schulte took over as superintendent in February. She said she received e-mails Tuesday from school staff members who are parents, asking why she couldn’t let them know earlier so they could plan for the next day. Then Tuesday night the Beloit superintendent called her, saying he was canceling.


“That was maybe a little bit of a change factor to me,” Schulte said.


At the same time, Schulte was aware that if the weather cleared up in time for streets and parking lots to be cleared, she would have been canceling school when she didn’t have to.


“I don’t want to wake up the next morning and everything is fine and we could have had a school day,” Schulte said.


“You just have to make the calls as you see them,” Schulte said. “I want to be very careful that we don’t use up a snow day that we didn’t have to use.”


The district has one snow day built into its calendar. Any other school cancellations must be made up.


Schulte decided around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. That triggered Sheryl Miller, the district’s spokeswoman, who notifies news media and posts the news on the district’s Web site.


One new medium is available this year, the AlertNow system, which sends automated messages to parents and staff. But AlertNow is turned off from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., and district officials could not override the system.


Keeping AlertNow off at night is intended to make sure no one is called during hours when most people are sleeping, Schulte said. Now, Schulte said she’ll listen to feedback and consider whether to use AlertNow at other times.


Schulte knows she’ll be second-guessed for not making the call earlier Tuesday, as many other superintendents did. She also knows she can’t make everybody happy.


“Knowing how the day turned out now, sure, I could have called school off at 3 o’clock (Tuesday afternoon), but that’s just not practical because you never know how the weather’s going to turn,” she said. “How many times have we had a big storm coming, and then it bypasses us?”



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