We thought our families might appreciate an inside look at how our team manages decisions about when to adjust our schedule due to inclement weather.
Managing inclement weather and the safety of our community is not a simple task. Safety of our students, of our families, and of our staff is always our top priority. We go through as thorough of a process as we can to make the best possible decision about whether or not to alter our schedule due to inclement weather. And, while I know it is a very serious thing to make the best decision for the School, I don’t mind sharing that it is probably my least favorite duty as your head of school.
Over the years, I have tried unsuccessfully to pass this part of the job on to someone else … I’ve tried to tell our past two board presidents it’s their job – they didn’t buy it. I tried to make Ben, our director of upper school, think it was his job when he was a new employee – he wasn’t that naive. Once in a while I try to make my wife, Jess, decide – she knows to steer herself and the kids clear of me during storm-watch decisions. Our previous director of facilities, Mackie, was the only one who was willing to help make the decision – and his answer was always the same (even without looking at a weather report), “Shut it down.”
First comes the possibility of coming inclement weather. As soon as there is even a hint of anything, everyone makes sure to let me know. Faculty, staff, friends from other schools, and even the students share the news: “Kevin! Kevin! Did you see it might snow in seven days?!? It’s going to be epic.” Sometimes even my mom calls me from St. Louis to let me know weather might be coming our way. Thanks, mom!
Second comes studying the predictions and weather reports. We use websites like NOAA and The Weather Channel, and we tie into reports and weather analyses that the National Weather Service makes specifically for the Piedmont Triad Airport. We continually monitor updates and forecasts. At this point, everyone offers support as a semi-professional weather expert. “Kevin! Kevin! I heard it is going to be four inches this time!” or “Kevin, my knee is swelling up, so it’s definitely going to be a doozy of a storm.” And, again from my mom, “Kevin, don’t forget to get bread and milk for your family on your way home.”
Third has us seeing what other schools do. We pay close attention to the public school systems, even though they have buses and high school students driving that factor into their decisions. All the Triad area heads of school are on an email thread to communicate what we are thinking. For example, this last storm, all the area independent schools closed Friday, except for three of us: GMS, GDS, and Canterbury. I was on a text-message thread with GDS and Canterbury schools’ heads of school throughout the night on Thursday and then starting at 5 a.m, on Friday. It helps us all to see what the other schools are doing.
Another piece involves us getting firsthand information by driving the roads ourselves. For this last storm, we drove the roads at both 10 p.m. Thursday and about 5 a.m. Friday to experience on how the roads and campus were after the snow had stopped.
Additionally, our facilities team salts campus before a weather event, and they are on standby to be ready to plow and shovel campus if needed.
The Last Storm
Here’s our timeline for the most recent storm:
- 5 p.m. | Our administration team met to get organized about the coming storm.
- 8:30 a.m. | Your administration met to discuss the situation and look at it from all angles.
- 9 a.m. | We made the decision to dismiss at 12 p.m. as all the weather reports called for snow around 2 p.m., and we never want to dismiss students in the middle of a weather event. We issue communications on all our channels to notify families and walk through campus talk to support with faculty with the adjusted schedule and dismissal.
- 12 p.m. | We all try to be out and present at dismissal to make sure it goes smoothly and to thank families for coming to pick up early, which we know is in the middle of your many of your work days.
- 6 p.m., 8 p.m., and 10 p.m. | Nancy, our associate of school, and I talk every two hours to assess the situation. Whenever the decision is obvious enough, we like to tell our families the night before. For the last storm, it was not obvious enough to make a decision, so we continue to monitor weather and talk to other area heads of schools into the night and early the next morning.
- Sometime between these calls | As anyone knows, family life still continues while we work. So my three kids someone how cajoled Jess and me to go out for some nighttime sledding and hiking in our woods with the dog – who all need a bath or a book before bed!
- 5:30 a.m. | Nancy and I check in, looking at all our weather predictions and road reports. For this storm, we see all roads are flowing clearly, the Greensboro Police Department have note reported any weather-related incidents, and some of our team is out on the roads to confirm they are dry and do not appear to be slick.
- 5:35 a.m. | I do one final check with GDS and Canterbury.
- 5:45 a.m. | We make the decision for a late start. We push out an email to families, post to Facebook, and update our weather hotline. Internally, we notify all employees, so they are aware of the late start, and Heather, our director of facilities, gets her plan together to have campus ready by 9:30 a. m.
- 9 a.m. | We arrive to open campus and get ready for the day.
- 10 a.m. | Our first students arrive, some fussy with me that I didn’t call a snow day and some still with snow in their hair and boots from their early morning sledding session.
In the End
I know that with one “push of a button,” the decision about adjusting our schedule directly affects over 600 people. Hopefully, this sneak peak of the steps we take to make our decision helps illustrate how seriously we take the process and the decision. I really appreciate everyone’s support, and hopefully you enjoyed a bit of snow play or a beautiful walk in the woods.
P.S. Our Green & White Bash auction is Friday, May 1. I hope you will join us at Summerfield Farms for a fun time and to help raise money for faculty professional development and student financial assistance. Invitations will come out early next month. Among the dozens of amazing experiences and items, we’ll also auction off things like “head of school” for the day. I wonder if my team will let me auction off an item called: “You’re in charge of making the decision for a snow day.” Would you bid on that?