SA districts shed light on snow day decision-making process

School districts say student safety is No. 1 priority

By Adrian Garcia - Digital Journalist
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SAN ANTONIO - Just six days into the start of this year’s meteorological winter, San Antonio experienced its biggest snow event in more than three decades.

On Thursday, Dec. 7. 2017, San Antonio saw 1.9 inches of snow -- much less than when the Alamo City was covered with 13.5 inches on Jan. 21, 1985, but still not insignificant.

See which schools were closed or had a delayed start on Friday, December 8

As crews with the Texas Department of Transportation worked overnight to ensure the safety of commuters by spraying saltwater brine on expressways, local school districts were monitoring the situation to determine the appropriate response for Friday’s school day.

After consulting with local officials on road conditions, all major districts in the San Antonio area determined before 6 a.m. on Friday that the commute to all of its schools was safe enough for travel. 

RELATED: Let it snow! Social media users post great pics, videos of rare snow day in South Texas

Despite many voicing their disagreement on social media and by emails sent to KSAT.com about their district’s decision to not delay the start of school, all San Antonio districts shared one similar theme: Safety is the number one concern following inclement weather such as Thursday’s snow event.

Below are statements from 11 major school districts in San Antonio about their decision to start school on a regular schedule for Friday: 

 

Alamo Heights ISD: 

"Student safety is always our first concern. All school districts in our area went out to check the safety of roads early Friday morning. We spoke, and agreed that roads were safe. We make these decisions using all resources available to us, with the knowledge that it is important for our parents to be at work in a safe and timely manner, as well. We had a great staff and student attendance on Friday, with many students and teachers taking advantage of the learning opportunity this rare snow day presented to our students. We received no complaints regarding our decision."

 

East Central ISD:

"ECPD (East Central Police Department) and district officials monitor weather conditions throughout the night along with TxDOT, and our Transportation Department. The roads are driven by our police chief and transportation staff members in the early morning (3:30-4: 30 AM) and media outlets and local weather monitored. With the information gathered, our superintendent gets on a conference call at 4:30 AM with other surrounding district leadership and a determination is made as to whether the roads are safe, or not, with safety for all at the center of the discussion. Student safety is our top priority.

Parents always have the right to make decisions in the best interest of their children at all times. Normally, we would rather cancel school completely during inclement conditions that warrant because a delay is hard for families and our campuses. Many of our parents work and if the streets are safe for travel, they will be expected to go to work. It would be difficult for them to leave their elementary aged children home and hope they catch the bus 2 hours later. "

(ECISD had approximately 13% of students absent on Friday)

 

Harlandale ISD: 

"In the event of inclement weather, Harlandale ISD closely monitors updated weather forecasts and road conditions to make a decision regarding possible school closures or delays. Throughout the decision-making process, Harlandale ISD utilizes information from the Texas Department of Transportation to assess the safety conditions of the roads and is in direct contact with area police departments, our transportation department, and other area school districts. A decision is made in the best interest or our students and staff no later than 5 a.m. Parents and staff are notified through our social media pages, our website, our automated call system and through local media."

(Harlandale ISD had a student attendance rate of 81% with a campus attendance rate by employee professionals and paraprofessionals at 92%)

Judson ISD: 

"We assess what the forecasted conditions are to be…whether inclement weather is expected to continue. Whether the moisture that has fallen is likely to stay on surfaces or evaporate and what morning low temperature will be.  We also begin driving the roads in the area by 3:30 a.m. to see what road/bridge conditions are like and test roads through the time when drivers begin to come in for runs.  Check to see if any road closures are in effect and their locations. We also consult other neighboring school districts as to what they are seeing as well."

(Judson ISD had a student attendance rate of 85%, with employees at 88% on Friday)

 

North East ISD:

"The District is constantly monitoring weather/driving conditions in the event of a possible weather event. The District is also in contact with TxDOT, the Department of Transportation, along with SAPD and NEPD. In addition, District leaders, including the superintendent drive the roadways themselves, starting around 3:30 am. Then, the superintendent gathers information from across the District and confers with other area superintendents from large districts who have been doing the same. 

If roadways are safe, school will go on as planned. Media coverage is also monitored and on Friday morning, every media outlet had reporters driving on the roadways reporting roadway conditions were good and any issues were very isolated."

(NEISD had 15% of students absent on Friday versus a typical Friday of 4%) 

 

Northside ISD: 

"Northside ISD makes decisions about the potential closing of schools due to inclement weather based on many factors including current road conditions, updated weather forecasts, and in consultation with other area school districts. In the majority of instances when the inclement weather could potentially impact the normal start to our school day, we feel it is best practice, given how quickly weather conditions can change, to make those decisions early in the morning when we have the most recent information at our disposal. 

Our standard practice is to utilize information from various sources, including the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the Northside ISD Police Department, the NISD Transportation Department, and others when assessing the safety conditions of roads."

(NISD had a student attendance rate of 83.87% on Friday)

 

San Antonio ISD:

"In making a decision related to potential severe weather, we closely monitor weather reports and road conditions, consulting with our District police and transportation departments. In many cases, such as last week where there are changing weather conditions, we wait until early morning to make the decision based on the latest information on road conditions and weather expectations. Our process includes checking with other districts and takes into consideration that many of our employees live in other areas of the city.
 
We alerted parents the evening before that our current plans were to be open, but that any change to that would be communicated through the media, our website, social channels and our phone notification system."

(SAISD had a student attendance rate of 80%, versus 93-94% for a typical Friday)

 

Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD 

"District officials were up and driving throughout the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District, beginning at 3:30 a.m., to ascertain road conditions. That included major roads, overpasses, bridges and other areas prone to accumulate ice and/or snow during cold weather conditions. 

Dr. Greg Gibson, Superintendent of Schools, was also in contact with San Antonio-area superintendents via text messaging chain to discuss the weather-related issues and seek feedback for what factors were going into making a decision. SCUC also maintained communications with city officials to monitor road closures (none within our district boundaries). We continued to monitor weather forecasts as well.  It was determined that road conditions were safe for automobile and school bus travel. The issue of safety is embedded into the SCUC Mission Statement, 'SCUC ISD provides a safe, secure and challenging learning environment...'"

(SCUCISD had 2,222 student absences on Friday)

 

Somerset ISD: 

"It's all about safety. Safety on the roads for buses, for parents, for staff members. The decision is one that starts early in the morning with all of the Superintendents of districts in Bexar County. Road condition reports are gathered beginning around 3:00 AM. The Superintendents of the larger school districts in SA will make their call to cancel school or not. Somerset ISD then makes the determination based the safety of the roadways for our families and bus routes in our district, in addition to conditions in San Antonio. 80% of Somerset ISD employees reside in San Antonio. While it's not automatic, if the large districts in SA cancel class, Somerset ISD would probably do the same."

(Somerset ISD had about 720 students absent on Friday, representing about 17% of the student population in the district)

 

South San ISD: 

"We take a number of things into consideration, first we send employees from our police department and transportation department to drive the roads as early as 3:30 am. Information
concerning road conditions is communicated to the superintendent. In addition, Bexar County superintendents share information with each other concerning any delayed school starts or cancellations. Based on this information, the superintendent decides whether schools will be delayed in opening that day, be closed, or operate as usual. He communicates this information to the senior district staff and to our public information officer. All this occurs by 5:00 or
5:30am. Our public information officer posts this information on our website as quickly as possible."

(South San ISD had approximately 82% of students present on Friday)

 

Southwest ISD:

"Four to six district officials monitor the weather throughout the night and in concert with other agencies; TxDOT, SWISD PD, SWISD Transportation Department, and the Superintendent’s Office. The roads are driven by at least 4-5 staff members (including the Supt.) in the early morning (3:30-4:00 AM) and media outlets and local weather monitored. In conference and partnership with other surrounding district leadership, a determination is made to safe passage, or not. At the front of any decision is safe transportation and student safety."

(Southwest ISD had 18% of students absent versus a typical Friday of approximately 7%)

Inquiries for statements from Medina Valley ISD, Edgewood ISD, and Southside ISD were not immediately received. 

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