To Close or Not to Close?

  • Many people wonder how we decide to close school due to weather conditions, or when to keep it open. Such emergency closures are something we take very seriously for many reasons. Here is the process we go through and some of the thinking involved.

    The transportation directors from Coeur d'Alene Public Schools and the Lakeland and Post Falls school districts 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 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 5:30 AM. The three school districts often follow one another’s leads, 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 obvious safety considerations as well, including students who walk to school and who wait at bus stops in frigid temperatures or hazardous conditions.

    There are also safety issues not 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 understand the impact a school closure has on each of our families. Please know 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 mainly 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 and Facebook page, and can “blast out” emails 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 other districts in our region. Generally, you can expect to hear from us only if we decide to close school.