February 2015 Column

 

 Recent weather events have brought up the question as to what goes into deciding whether schools have a regular schedule, delay, or cancel. I hope it goes without saying that seldom is there a perfect decision.  There is something debatable with each decision. The guiding factor is always public safety.
 The day prior to a weather related day, HMS Director of Operations Gene Strickland and I have several conversations about forecasts and possibilities the predicted storm may bring. Rarely do we delay or postpone school the night before a predicted event because conditions sometimes never develop. Instead, when snow or ice is predicted, a typical day begins at 4 am when Mr. Strickland and I begin driving streets throughout the community to determine the drivability of the roads. Between the two of us we cover every corner of the community and try to hit the possible hot spots in the outlying district boundaries depending on the direction of the storm.  We drive by every campus to ensure parking lots as well as sidewalks are safe.  We understand high school students are the least experienced drivers in the communities. Thus we make sure to drive through the high school parking lot and may even try to maneuver as a high school student would proceed in the parking lot.
 We make the call to delay or cancel school by 6 a.m.  so we preempt the bus drivers leaving on their routes.  The bus companies are just a couple of resources we use to make our decision.  Typically we also contact the police, City of Hobbs employees and view multiple online weather reports.  We also make contact with the surrounding entities such as NMJC, Eunice Public Schools and Lovington Municipals School officials. Upon making the decisions to delay schools, we review the weather and road conditions for the next several hours to determine if we should cancel all together. 

  The delay or cancellation of a school day does not have to be “made up” if we stay within the limits of our calendar.  Schools now have an option to choose hours rather than number of days for attendance. High school students by law must attend school 1,080 hours (this excludes lunch). As long as we stay within those parameters, we do not have to extend the school year. I’m sure we have people who have moved here from other communities and questioned our cancellation or delay with less than an inch of snow.  The reality lies in the fact that since we are a warm-weather community, we do not have the equipment nor do we have the driving skills to maneuver in snowy and icy conditions.
  Once it has been determined to modify the school day, we set our all call into action.  Starla Jones sets up the all call to parents and we also send an email to those who have set that as an option.  It is vitally important that parents give the school accurate contact information, so we can keep you informed in emergency situations. In addition to the all call and email, we post the information on the front page of our web site www.hobbsschools.net, post it on our Facebook page and notify local radio stations as well as television stations in Albuquerque and Midland.
  The decision to delay or cancel school is one of the least favorite jobs a superintendent must perform. It is always heartfelt because we know it causes consternation with some parents finding baby sitters. However, we don’t want to endanger our staff or students on their trip to school. Although not everybody agrees with our decisions, I hope this sheds some light on the procedures we take to make the ultimate decision on delaying or cancelling school.

 

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