Many people wonder or ask me how and why a decision was made to either close school due to weather conditions, or keep it open. Such emergency closures are something that we take very seriously for many reasons. I’ll describe here both the process we go through and also some of the thinking involved.
The transportation directors from Coeur d'Alene Public Schools, Lakeland and Post Falls communicate with one another, and each then communicates with their respective superintendents. Sometimes we send more people onto the roads in different parts of our respective districts as well, as we know that “microclimates” are very real, and conditions will vary with elevation, proximity to the lakes, etc.
We aim to make decisions by about 5:30AM. We often follow one another’s leads (Coeur d’Alene, Lakeland, Post Falls), but sometimes we make independent decisions.
Of course, safety is our highest priority. Safety on the roads includes the ability of our school bus fleet/drivers as well as passenger cars to navigate the roads. There are other more obvious safety considerations as well, including students who walk to school and who wait at bus stops in frigid temperatures or hazardous conditions.
However, there are also safety issues that aren’t as readily apparent. For some of our students, if we were to close school, there would be no supervision at home, as parents have to go to work. In addition, for some of our students, school is perhaps the warmest and safest place to be. We have close to 11,000 students in our district; for some of them, school is the place they can rely on having a warm, well-balanced meal.
All of these factors must be considered every day that weather and road conditions are in question. We appreciate the impact a school closure has on each of our families. I’d like to assure you that each potential closure decision is weighed thoughtfully with careful consideration for the safety of our entire school community, and based on the best information we have available.
Our typical communications, once we decide to close school, are both internal (notifying all staff) and external (notifying parents, students and the community). We used to rely only on television and radio stations to help get the word out (along with a call-in phone line). Now, we also post on our Website, Facebook page, and can “blast out” emails and/or text messages. Typically, we communicate in this way only if we close. There have been occasions when we communicated that we were open, because we knew there may be some question or confusion due to the decisions of various districts in our region. In the future, please expect to hear from us if we are closed – not that we are open … unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Superintendent, Coeur d'Alene Public Schools