Local Storms Bring Questions About Closing Schools

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Carbon School District Press Release

The recent storms in the area have created quite a stir in a number of ways, particularly in activities related to questions to the Carbon School District administration about what constitutes a “snow day.”

That subject was discussed by Carbon District Superintendent Steve Carlsen during the regular meeting of the Carbon Board of Education on January 11.

“There are no set rules in the state of Utah as to when schools should be closed for emergencies or weather events,” Carlsen told the board. “It is really up to each individual district, based on their circumstances at the time.”

It was pointed out that the various districts in the state use different kinds of determinants when deciding whether to close a school or schools for a snow event. He noted that in St. George, Washington County School District will close schools if they get more than a half an inch of snow, while in Logan, Cache Valley School District makes at least a foot or more of snow the amount that sets off a closure.

“We have to consider closing school carefully,” said Carlsen. “There are a lot of factors to look at. But parents should remember that they have the right to keep their kids home from school at any time they feel it is necessary. Or if they feel in the middle of the school day that they need to bring their kids home, they are welcome to do so by coming in and checking them out of school properly.”

He went to to say that for parents of high school age students they should be aware that school bus travel is statistically much safer than travel by car (especially when it comes to inexperienced teenage drivers).

“So, for those students, it may be a good idea on snow days to have your child ride the bus,” said Carlsen.

He then listed the things the district must consider if and when schools are closed for a weather related event.

  • First and foremost is the safety of the students and the employees of the district.

“In some cases, it may be safer for students to be at school rather than at home by themselves,” said Carlsen. “The time the storm comes in may also determine what happens.”

He said that in the case of a storm that comes in the middle of the day it may be safer to keep students in school than send them home. The type of storm that occurs must also be a consideration.

  • Food insecurity is also a concern.

“There are some students that may only have the opportunity to eat at school,” he said. “In some cases, the breakfast and lunch the students get are their only meals of the day.”

  • Day care considerations.

Many parents have no day care system in place for kids if they have to stay home or are sent home in the middle of the day. This poses problems for a lot of parents who count on school being in session every day they plan it to be.

  • The weather forecast.

Of course, no one can be sure that a forecast will be exactly right or not. Impending huge storms with a good deal of warning could warrant keeping schools closed. But, the superintendent noted to the board that he has seen times in other districts where the forecast was set to be terrible, the district then closed the schools based on that forecast and the day turned out to be very mild.

Any move to close schools by the district needs to be approved not only by the superintendent but also in conference with at least the Board of Education President.

“We are sensitive to parents’ concerns,” said Carlsen. “We just want them to remember that we want what is best for the students, both from an attendance viewpoint and a concern for safety.”

He also pointed out that any school day missed for any type of school closure has to be made up. Currently on the Carbon School District calendar, there is one day that has been set aside for such a makeup day. That day is April 13th.

“That day is the Thursday prior to a four day weekend that we have set aside for spring break,” said Carlsen.

In two previous school districts where Superintendent Carlsen has worked, where days had to be made up, there was very poor attendance on those makeup days.

“So, in the long run, if the students can be transported safely to school, we will have school in Carbon School District,” said the superintendent.

Notification concerning school closures could come through a number of different avenues. First of all, the media including the newspapers, radio stations and the local television station, would be informed. Also, the district would utilize the parent-link telephone system to let parents know as well. But, maybe the best way to find out, rather than call the schools or the district office directly, is to access the Carbon School District web page at https://www.carbonschools.org/ and look under the “News” section in the middle of the home page for information on possible closures or changes of schedule.

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