As sure as we live in Michigan, there will be winter weather

We’ve enjoyed extended spring-like conditions well into November, but we can be assured that winter weather conditions will be here sometime soon. Possibly, as early as this weekend. After all, one year ago we already had 30 inches of snow. With that in mind, I feel it’s once again a good time to remind parents, students and staff about our communications plan for weather-related school closures.

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First of all, unless an announcement is made by the district to close schools, always assume that schools will be open and if necessary, take extra precautions on getting to and from school in snow and ice. Michigan is a cold-weather state and winter snow and ice are to be expected. Schools will be closed only when a variety of conditions warrant doing so.

I am usually awake and up by 4:30 am throughout the cold-weather months analyzing various weather reports, talking to superintendents surrounding our district, and occasionally driving around to test the roads and sidewalks as the conditions may warrant. If there is a need to close schools due to weather conditions, I try my best to make that decision by 6:00 am and get the announcement out right away. Sometimes however, conditions worsen after 6 am and a later announcement might be necessary.

Once I make the decision to close schools, I typically follow a specific communications protocol for getting the message out:

1. Announcement is first posted on the district Facebook page (www.facebook.com/leerebels) and Twitter account (www.twitter.com/GodfreyLeePS). I also copy the announcement to my personal accounts for those who friend or follow me.

2. Our emergency notification system or “robo call” will go to work getting the closure message to you through your primary contact information in your child’s Infinite Campus record. This includes a computerized message via telephone and/or email. If you do not answer the phone right away, a message will be left on your voicemail or answering machine. Please do not call the school back if you receive an automated call as its most likely no one will be in the office to answer your call at that hour. Check your voicemail, email or any of the other modes discussed above. The announcement goes out in both English and Spanish.

3. Announcement is sent to GRAIL WEB which then posts it on all area television and radio stations. You will hear it on the radio or see it in the trailer at the bottom of the television screen, but the fastest way to know for sure is to go to your favorite TV or radio station’s website.  Please remember that it will say GODFREY-LEE PUBLIC SCHOOLS if we are closed. Do not assume that just because Grand Rapids, Wyoming or Godwin schools are closed that our district is also closed. Conditions may warrant closures of other schools in other districts while ours remain opened.

4. The district’s web page (www.godfrey-lee.org) will also contain the announcement.

If school is closed for the day, there may be additional announcements made later about any scheduled after-school or evening events. Sometimes the weather conditions in the morning warrant closing school but they improve during the day and we can still allow other events to go on as scheduled. If it’s clear that the conditions will not improve, an announcement will be made that includes cancelling all evening events. We keep it simple to avoid confusion.

On very rare occasions, it may become necessary to CLOSE SCHOOL EARLY and send children home. Every parent must have a plan ready in the event an emergency early closure should occur. If you are likely to not be available to pick up your children as you normally do, you will need an alternate plan for either someone else to pick them up or another location for them to walk. Your child should know what to do. If you need to contact the school to deliver instructions to your child, please do so but remember that many parents may be trying to call at the same time so be patient.

If you have concerns or questions about what to do in any emergency closure, please discuss them with your child’s school principal or teacher to be sure there is no confusion or misunderstanding. Our goal is to ensure  we have a clear and timely communication channel with every home that.

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About David Britten

Retired U.S. Army Officer, former elementary, middle and high school principal, currently serving as a public school superintendent.
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