A letter from Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte – As we approach the winter season, I’d like to inform you as to how decisions are made regarding whether or not to have school during inclement weather. We understand that our decision to open or close schools in bad weather has a big impact on families. We also understand that our students are better served – both academically and socially – by being in school. But, as always, our top priority is the safety of our students.
How Do We Make Our Decisions?
Please understand that we make the decision to open or close the schools in bad weather based on a careful analysis of all relevant factors, such as:
- Road conditions, based on information from our Transportation staff, the City of Marshalltown and Marshall County.
- Amount of snow and ice accumulated.
- Forecast, including whether precipitation is continuing. We pay particular attention to information coming directly from the National Weather Service office.
- Building conditions, such as whether we have electricity and heat.
- Parking lot and sidewalk conditions, based on information from maintenance and custodial staff members, who are responsible for clearing and treating school parking lots and sidewalks.
- Temperature and wind chill are extremely important to consider, as some of our students walk to school and some must wait outside for the bus. Once wind chills reach -25 degrees and/or raw temperatures approach -15 degrees, we begin to seriously consider whether a late start, an early dismissal, or a cancellation of school may be advisable.
- Weather predictions: We prefer not to make our decision based on weather predictions, which are not always accurate. However, sometimes this is unavoidable and we’d rather error on the side of safety.
- What other area school districts are doing: We share information and consult with other local school districts, and check whether they are opening or closing. As most are aware, the Marshalltown CSD is much more urban (city) than rural. Because all of our neighboring school districts are mostly made up of rural residences and roads, it is possible that our schools may be in session when surrounding districts are not.
Who Makes the Decision?
As superintendent of schools, I am responsible for the final decision, based on the above factors and recommendations from our directors of Transportation and Buildings & Grounds.
How Is The Public Notified?
When a decision is made, we immediately notify the public in several different ways. Notifications are posted on the MCSD website, www.marshalltown.k12.ia.us, the District Facebook page, the the District Twitter page. Emails are sent to all parents through Infinite Campus (Campus Portal). Local news media – including print, radio, and television stations – also receive notifications to post. Parents can sign up to receive text notifications through their Infinite Campus account here. When there is an early dismissal, we will also use phone call notifications.
When Is The Decision Made?
My goal is to have a decision made no later than 5:30 a.m. so that we can notify the public in a timely manner. If I wait longer to announce a closing, some parents may have already left for work, leaving their children unsupervised.
Will We Close School If Conditions Worsen?
Keep in mind that even if conditions worsen, we cannot reverse our decision in the morning without endangering students. Once we make the decision to open the schools, many parents rely on it and leave for work. If we then send students right back home, many will return to unsupervised bus stops and empty houses. If conditions get worse during the school day, we may need to have an early dismissal, but we will give adequate notice to all parents first.
Although my staff and I do our absolute best in this process, we know that often no perfect decision exists. If you do not feel as though it is safe for your child to attend school, use your best judgment on whether he or she should attend. Also, discourage teenagers from driving in bad conditions and offer them alternatives if weather conditions worsen.
I hope this explanation helps everyone understand our process for making the best possible decision for all in our District.
Dr. Theron J. Schutte, Superintendent
Marshalltown Community School District
District Administration Office, 1002 South 3rd Ave., Marshalltown, Iowa 50158