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Hudson Schools: Student safety top priority for school closings

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News River Falls,Wisconsin 54022 http://www.hudsonstarobserver.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/14/0701/eggebraatencolor1.jpg?itok=dKzF29Rs
Hudson Star Observer
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Hudson Schools: Student safety top priority for school closings
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Decisions to close school, delay opening, or release students early due to inclement weather are always made with the safety of all students foremost in our minds. Winter weather in Wisconsin is challenging and even many school days create a level of unsafe conditions if precautions are not taken. Serving young students who are less able to fend for themselves to inexperienced high school students who drive to school adds to the challenge when the weather is questionable.

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The superintendent and district deputy director confer about whether or not to close school. The district is very conscious of the impact closings have on students and families. Since learning time and being in school are so highly valued, these decisions are difficult and are made after significant deliberation and consideration of numerous factors with safety on top of the list.

Below are primary factors the district considers in determining whether to close, delay, or release students early from school:

--Information gathered on conditions from multiple weather forecast authorities, Safe-Way Bus Company, and road crews.

--Road conditions throughout the district. Because of the size of the district, roads may be clear in one area and travel elsewhere is hazardous.

--Winter weather warnings for severe temperature and wind chill from the National Weather Service are given greater consideration than advisories.

--Whether conditions are expected to worsen or how soon they are predicted to improve.

--School conditions such as whether the buildings have electricity, heat and water.

--Whether parking lot and sidewalk conditions can be cleared in time for the opening of school.

--Communication with surrounding districts about their plans to stay open or close, even though the final decision for Hudson schools is made locally.

In the event that schools are open and weather conditions worsen during school hours, a decision to close early will be made by midday. This is probably the worst for families and is only made if there is a heightened level of concern that later conditions will be deteriorating to a point where transportation home seems increasingly unsafe. In this case, every effort is made to make personal contact with elementary students' families before they are sent home.

The district makes every effort to gather information and inform families and staff as early as possible and before 6 a.m. for school delays or closings. The Alert Now emergency communication system for families and staff along with information posted on district and school websites and local television stations help to get the important messages out as quickly as possible. The Hudson Star-Observer and Hudson Patch also post information.

While the district does not plan for a predicted number of school closing days during the school year, the district does schedule more student instruction days than are required by the State of Wisconsin. This extra learning time, though intended to support all students learning at higher levels, does provide the district with a small cushion of time for unexpected days for school closure. If weather conditions permit, administrative staff and some support staff are working even when school is closed or delayed. This year so far, teachers will have work time to make up without students.

Students will not need to make up time for the school closures so far this year. If additional school closings occur between now and the end of the school year, further review of student instructional time compared to the Wisconsin Department of Instruction's required days and minutes will be necessary and adjustments made to the daily schedule, if needed.

Keeping students safe during Wisconsin's winter is a partnership between parents and the school district. School closures, opening delays, or early dismissals, unfortunately, are part of the reality we face in the Midwest. When the decision has been made to keep schools open during challenging weather conditions, parents make the final decision about whether the conditions are safe enough in their neighborhood area for their student/s to attend school and an absence for these reasons will be excused. We appreciate the patience and understanding of our school families and encourage them to have back-up plans in place to deal with these possibilities. The difficult decision to delay and/or close schools best balances safety needs of all students with the regrettable difficulties experienced by families.

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news@hudsonstarobserver.com
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