How do school leaders decide whether to stay open, cancel or delay class?


(WJHL)- As the region prepares for its first snow event of the season, school districts are also closely monitoring whether to stay open, cancel or delay.

“Every snow event is different so the protocol is different,” says Washington Co., Tennessee Director of Schools Dr. Bill Flannery.

School leaders constantly check the radar leading up to winter weather events.

SEE MORE: Tri-Cities Closings and Delays

“We can’t look at East Tennessee weather, Tri-Cities weather- we have to look at Fall Branch weather, Chuckey weather, Jonesborough weather, Sulphur Springs weather because what it’s doing in Fall Branch may be completely different than what it’s doing in South Central,” says Flannery.

Due to a wide range of bus routes and school locations, county school systems typically have to make the calls sooner than city school districts.

“We’re dealing with a smaller amount of road coverage as opposed to other systems that have a much broader range to have to look at,” says Kingsport City Schools Assistant Superintendent Andy True.

True also says that planning with community partners is key.

“We are in great communication and partnership with the City of Kingsport and the public works department,” said True. “They are a key part and partner with us when it comes to developing our inclement weather plan.”

The decision either to delay or completely close is one that school leaders don’t take lightly. Kingsport City, Washington, and Unicoi Counties say they make their decision no later than 5 a.m. before busses start warming up.

“Our buses take off at 6 a.m. and that’s pretty early. We do have some mountain routes so sometimes that two-hour difference can make the difference. Sometimes those just help us be more informed to make that final decision,” says Unicoi County Director of Schools John English.

All three districts said that they prefer to cancel over delaying due to family planning schedules.

“We try to make decisions that are based on whether we are going to be in school or not, obviously timing has a lot to do with that in the mornings,” said True.

For Unicoi County, that decision has to be made well in advance.

“For us, once it starts snowing, you’re 15 minutes away from being in a really hazardous situation,” said English

Many school systems alert parents and students about schedule changes through text alerts.

Monday Johnson City Schools reminded parents to make sure their contact information is up to date with the most current mobile numbers and email information.

Kingsport City, Washington and Unicoi Counties’ systems also mentioned that they are worried about using one of their 13 snow days this early in the school year. But, they say that they will do whatever keeps students and families safe.

“If we’re saying it’s not safe enough to ride a bus on a road, then to me we’re saying it’s not safe enough for a parent to try to drive a kid or more importantly for a 16-year-old inexperienced driver to try to drive themselves,” says English.

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