Litchfield Public Schools
35 Wamogo Road ~ Litchfield, Connecticut ~ 06759
October 28, 2020
Dear School Community,
The leaves have nearly fallen and the forecast is showing a potential of snow on Friday. It means it is once again time to issue the annual Winter Weather Advisory letter. Please note, this year there is an important additional topic found below on the "future of snow days."
THE DECISION PROCESS
When the forecast predicts wintry weather, students (and maybe parents) wish for the coveted “snow day.” Please read more about that below.
As superintendent, my goal is to ensure that each school meets the state-mandated 180 school days in a safe and secure manner, even during adverse weather conditions.
The process of making the decision to close or delay school begins well in advance of the announcement on the radio and television. Typically, superintendents review weather forecasts in the days before the storm and during the early morning hours. Between 4:45 a.m. and 5:15 a.m., telephone consultations between the superintendents, highway departments, maintenance personnel, and police departments determine the status of the weather and roads. I try to make a decision by 5:30 a.m. in the morning based upon the best estimates of what will happen in the next two to twelve hours. However, changing conditions may necessitate a later decision. If weather, road, and school site conditions warrant, the superintendents will cancel or delay the opening of schools. The district will use an automated telephone notification system to expedite the announcement of changes in school schedules or other emergency or special announcements. Parents should be sure their contact information is updated to ensure they receive important information. Radio and television stations, school bus operators, the school district websites, and staff will be notified immediately.
Many factors are taken into account when assessing conditions impacting the opening, closing, or delaying of school. The primary consideration is the safety of students ranging from approximately three to twenty-one years of age. School buses, parents, students, and staff members must travel on the highways and back roads of the area to get to and from the schools. Conditions within the towns and surrounding areas may differ dramatically during inclement weather. Consideration must also be given to the ability of the maintenance crews of the towns and the schools to clear and sand or salt the school parking lots, pathways, sidewalks, and entrances.
DELAYS vs. CLOSURE vs. EARLY RELEASE
In situations where it is predicted that weather and road conditions will improve during the morning, the opening of schools may be delayed by TWO HOURS. This means all bus routes and opening schedules will operate TWO HOURS later than usual. The balance of the school day and dismissal will be on a normal schedule.
The district also has an option of a THREE-HOUR delay in case more time is needed for road conditions to improve. This means all bus routes and opening schedules will operate THREE HOURS later than usual. The balance of the school day and dismissal will be on a normal schedule.
In the event that a delayed opening is called on an early release day, students will remain in school until the normal afternoon dismissal time. If this change occurs, there will then be no morning prekindergarten and afternoon prekindergarten will resume meeting at its regular time.
Although early closings are avoided whenever possible, in rare cases it may be necessary to dismiss school early due to unexpected deterioration of weather conditions. In these situations, an announcement will be issued by 9:30 a.m. and schools will be dismissed early.
Weather dismissal times are as follows:
Weather related early dismissal for Litchfield Middle and High Schools will occur at 11:00 a.m. Litchfield Intermediate School will dismiss at approximately 12:30 p.m. and Litchfield Center School will dismiss at approximately 12:45 p.m. When there is an early dismissal, morning prekindergarten will dismiss at the regular time and there will be no afternoon prekindergarten.
Families should have an emergency back-up plan in place in the event of an early closing. Children should be informed of this plan and parents should be sure their children understand where to go in the event of an early closing. Child care arrangements at home or on the same bus route should be made in advance of the early closing day since it will be difficult for the schools to contact every parent and monitor the whereabouts of every child. On days when the weather is problematic, parents are advised to stay tuned to the local radio and/or television channel to be aware of early closings. Since each school has a different procedure for dealing with alternate drop-offs, parent pick-ups, etc. parents should follow the established procedure.
For safety and efficiency purposes, we encourage parents to have their children ride the school bus on a regular basis. This is especially important on days when the weather is bad. School parking areas tend to experience heavy traffic and become grid-locked when many parents drive to pick up their children during bad weather.
Please note that when school is canceled, or when there is an early dismissal all activities and meetings for the day are also canceled. The school buildings will be closed.
The decision to delay, cancel, or dismiss school early is often a difficult one. Decisions made by the school district are not intended to prevent parents from making their own decision to send a child to school or keep a child home during severe weather. Based upon a personal assessment of weather reports, road conditions, and safety factors specific to their residence, parents may make their own decision regarding their child’s school attendance during inclement weather.
Parents who have questions, special circumstances, or who require additional clarification should contact their school principal.
THE FUTURE OF SNOW DAYS?
Based on greater utilization of technology in education, there has been much media attention that remote learning will replace snow days.
In October, the State Board of Education asked that the Connecticut Department of Education create a protocol for how remote learning could in fact replace a snow day. We, like every district, will await final guidance.
In the interim, I personally believe that the occasional snow day closure still has an important value in our changing world. A chance to be a child, to play in the snow, to build a snowman, or go sledding, are some of my favorite childhood moments. As my own children get older, these are also part of my favorite memories of being a father. Therefore, irrespective of anything, the first two snow days (at the very least) will be full closures and not replaced by remote learning.
I will update all accordingly, as we start to move through the winter months.
Superintendent of Schools