Edison Middle School Water Main Break

February 6, 2014

We apologize for any confusion regarding this morning’s announcement to close Edison Middle School today due to the water main break. The following outlines why the announcement was made at the time it was made and why some parents did not get the message immediately:

At approximately 7:15 this morning, a water main broke on the edge of the Edison school building. Almost immediately flooding conditions existed outside the perimeter of the building. Our boiler room, containing several electrical panels, began to take on water. The water entering that area required an immediate shutdown of all utilities in the building, including our internet.

Within minutes of that event a decision was made to cancel school for the Edison students. Without access to the internet, we were unable to directly contact families as we typically do through our automated calling/emailing system, ParentLink.

We acquired the services of the ParentLink home base in Utah. Unfortunately, when the home base sent out the message regarding Edison’s school cancelation, they sent the message to all students, but inadvertently did not include parent phone numbers. We apologize for the inconvenience this caused each of you and your families this morning.

Today is the first day of parent/student conferences at the middle schools.  If you had a conference scheduled for tonight, that will go on as planned. School will resume as normal tomorrow morning, Friday, February 7, 2014.

 

Weather-related Cancellations

cold-weatherThe past two weeks have brought a brutal return to South Dakota winters. Typically, it seems, there is at least something of a slow transition into snowy weather, followed by a slow transition into ultra-icy temperatures, which typically strike this region in January. This year, we got lots of both at at once – early in the season.

Every time the first snow falls or the first arctic blast shocks the senses, the Sioux Falls School District fields phone calls, emails, and social media questions (these are largely from high school students) about if we will call off school. If we do not, sometimes people insinuate that we don’t care about the safety of students or that we are irresponsible in having classes that day.

The irony, of course, is that any time classes are cancelled due to weather concerns, we also hear from another large contingent of the public who thinks we are crazy for cancelling or delaying school that day.

And usually, after a few days of such weather, these calls, emails and other contacts cease, as everyone is reminded that this is the reality of the part of the world we live in.

The truth is, the safety of students is our highest priority. And as facts would have it, for many students, school is the safest, warmest place for them to be most times during harsh weather, and we also have to take that into account when making decisions that affect 23,000 students.

So we do. The information below (in blue) was shared in each school’s newsletter early in the school year and is available at every school for any parent who does not have access to email.  While this document mostly discusses “snow days”, we’ve also spoken at length about “cold days” in the past. The facts below also pertain to the delay, early dismissal or cancellation of school when extreme cold is a factor: starting long before a decision would have to be made, we work directly with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls – and many other local authorities – to ensure that students who have to wait for busses or walk to school can do so safely. Remember that if and when school is delayed or cancelled, parents/guardians will hear directly from the School District via a ParentLink phone call with specific information.

School Related Cancellations and Postponements

 

It is important to be prepared for the winter storms and extreme cold that every South Dakota winter brings.  Please read the following information so you are aware of the procedures for school related cancellations and postponements.

We rely on experts from the weather service and city/county officials when we make decisions on school cancellations, late starts or early dismissals.

Cancelling School/Late Start

When a severe storm hits the area, or is forecast, we start contacting local officials as early as 3:00 a.m.  We communicate with our Operational Services Department, the Weather Bureau, the City Street Department, Sioux Falls Transit, and our transportation contractors. It is our goal to decide whether or not to cancel school by 5 a.m. to allow time for parking lots and sidewalks to be cleared, food services to prepare meals and the bus company to begin operations.  In the event that school needs to be cancelled or delayed, families will be alerted via a ParentLink phone call.  These calls will generally be sent between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. to accommodate families whose children are picked up by buses at 6:45 a.m. Announcements are also made on KLRN-TV (Cable Channel 20) and over the local radio and television stations.

Because the public schools have a limited rural area, it is often possible for Sioux Falls to have school when nearby towns may not.

Early Dismissal

Storms occasionally move in during the day, making it necessary to assess whether or not to dismiss school early.  We choose early dismissal only under the most extreme circumstances.  In most cases, it is safer for students to remain at school due to the need for transportation and proper supervision.  In the rare instances when schools are dismissed early, families will receive a ParentLink phone call and the information will appear on the District’s website at www.sf.k12.sd.us.  Announcements are also made on KLRN-TV and over the local radio and television stations.

Notifications refer to dismissal “one hour early” or “two hours early” because of the number of different building schedules.  In addition to noting the early dismissal, announcements about evening activities are normally included.

 

It is very important that every family has a plan for early dismissal. Be sure your student knows where to go in case no one is at home. Talk to your student about his/her safety during winter weather emergencies. 

 

Be safe this winter

The school system offers these suggestions concerning cold weather and

emergency situations:

 1. Listen for a ParentLink phone call regarding school closings, late starts, or early dismissals.  Check the District’s website at www.sf.k12.sd.us for updated information.  Announcements will also be made on KLRN-TV and local radio and television stations.  (Please avoid calling schools or the Instructional Planning Center. Phone lines are needed for emergency communications.)

 2. Make sure students are properly dressed for predicted weather conditions so they are prepared for walking or waiting for a bus in the cold or for being delayed on a bus in a weather-related situation.

 3. Students should not arrive at school until the scheduled time for outdoor staff supervision or the breakfast program begins. 

 4. Have a plan of action as to where your student will go if school is dismissed early. 

 5. School officials will use their best judgment about school closings, late starts, or early dismissals, but please remember that a parent has the right to keep children home or to pick them up from school early if they feel weather conditions require this action.

  

Comments Off

School Board Meeting Wrap-Up 4-22-13

In a previous post, we talked about the proposed changes to the District’s calendar to make up for more-than-usual weather-related cancellations this year. At Monday’s Board meeting, that proposal was ratified and the changes go into effect. The last day of this school year for students will be Friday, May 17, 2013. The District calendars for the next two years are also now available.

 The weather-related cancellations caused some other changes, including pushing back Joe Foss’ graduation ceremony to May 17th (from the 16th). The traditional high school graduation ceremonies will continue as planned on May 19th at the Sioux Falls Arena. More information about graduation, including parking options while the Events Center construction is underway, is available here. Each of the graduation ceremonies will be recorded and rebroadcast on KLRN TV (Midcontinent channels 20 and 595) in the weeks following graduation and are also available for purchase on DVD.

 The Good News Report on Monday was filled to the brim. Lincoln High School’s Athletic Principal Jim Dorman was recently selected the South Dakota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (SDIAAA) Athletic Director of the Year.  Dorman was also named the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Distinguished Service Award nominee and also the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Citation Award nominee. Mark Meile, Coordinator of Physical Education and Athletics for the District won the NIAAA State Award of Merit from the Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Three students received a cash prize from Midcontinent Communications for their work in the C-SPAN Student Cam Project. And finally, New Technology High School students shared the results of a project they’ve been working on regarding the use of Styrofoam trays in their cafeteria.

 Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Legal Services, Sue Simons, presented a report on TeacherFit and JobFit, employee screening tools the District uses as a part of the hiring process. Both programs were praised as accurately predicting employee performance. Since they integrate so closely with online job listings and HR software, the results of administrator feedback on the tools can be used to finer tune questionnaires and more closely match professional development with existing needs.

 The widely reported contract negotiations came to a pleasant close last night as the Board ratified the new five-year working agreements with employee groups. Chief negotiator for teachers, Travis Dahle of Washington High School, Sioux Falls Education Association President Deb Merxbauer and Board members praised the process and the results at the meeting.

 The next regular Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 13th. Board meetings are held the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the Instructional Planning Center (IPC). They are broadcast live on KLRN, on the Sioux Falls School District’s website here, and are replayed on KLRN throughout the week.

Comments Off

Last Day of School?

We’ve had a lot of questions about how the three recent snow (ice) days, and a “cold day” in January, will affect the rapidly approaching end of the school year. While the School Board is the body which will make final decisions on how to proceed, District administration is submitting the following recommendation – with explanation – to the Board for discussion on April 22 at the regular Board meeting.

 Based upon required minutes and options the State allows to be included in school calendar calculations, we will recommend to the School Board that we make up 2 of the 4 inclement weather days and end the student calendar on Friday, May 17th.  Due to contract days, all teachers will be required to make up 4 days and will end on Wednesday, May 22.  Our District has always prided itself on going beyond minimums so it is hard to recommend giving up 2 days of learning; however, we also know going into the next week poses additional challenges for students and families. Final consideration and School Board approval will be April 22, 2013.

 Graduation day will continue to be planned for May 19, 2013. The District website and this blog will be updated with the latest information after the Board takes official action.

Comments Off

No School January 31, 2013

“Will school be called off tomorrow?”

 It’s probably a question everyone asks at some point in their lives, typically with an undertone of hope and excitement. For young kids, it can mean a day of play and unstructured freedom. For older students, it means a day off from homework assignments, possible time with friends, or catching up on sleep. For teachers, it becomes a well-deserved break, perhaps, but a day that will inevitably need to be made up later.

 In the Sioux Falls School District, such decisions are not made lightly.

 The first and foremost consideration is the safety of students. In recent years, while snow events have not hampered the school calendar, tremendously cold wind chills have. When wind chills approach the point where exposed flesh can freeze in 10 minutes or less, the District will typically call off school.

 When it comes to weather-related delays, early dismissals or cancellations, numerous factors are in play. What time of day will the wind chill be in that dangerous range, and for how long? Will the 12 inches of snow be done falling by 3 a.m. and give city plows enough time to clear main thoroughfares and the streets around schools? What time in the afternoon is the winter storm predicted to hit our area?

 And since we are not meteorological experts, we rely on those individuals who are. Starting long before any significant weather event occurs, our administrators are in contact with the lead forecaster at the National Weather Service. Throughout snow and ice events, we are in constant contact with Sioux Falls Street Department, the Police Department, Sioux Falls Transit, School Bus, Inc., and we are out on the roads ourselves. We work as a team with the experts to make sure we are making the right decision.

 But we cannot ignore that our decision affects tens of thousands of people. Each time we delay starting school, dismiss early or cancel, parents, too, are directly impacted. Businesses throughout the region lose personnel (who are now staying home with students) and therefore productivity. Daycare centers are swamped with calls and must request extra workers come in on a day off. In some cases, parents cannot stay home and daycare centers are booked – resulting in students being at home alone, unsupervised, and possibly not in the ideal situation. And any day off during the winter results in an extra day of school at the end of year.

 Given these facts, as you might imagine, a decision which directly impacts 75,000+ people will leave many feeling that the correct decision was not made. In trying to make the best call for students and the community, traditionally, the District has tried to avoid late starts and early dismissals.

 Each year, we supply parents with information regarding weather-related closures. We make sure parents are aware that they will be notified using our mass communication system if school will be delayed, cancelled or dismissed early. We share the information with local media, will post it on our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. We remind parents to have a plan in place for such possibilities… a place for students to stay if parents must work and school begins late. Or places students can go if they are dismissed early and no one is home. We remind parents and (older) students to dress for the weather and anticipate the possibility that a bus might be running behind or that a car may not start. And we always make sure parents know that they definitely have the right to keep children home or pick them up early from school if they feel weather conditions require such action.

 By working as a team with parents and local experts, we can keep students safe during South Dakota winters.

Comments Off

No School February 2nd

Dangerously low wind chills helped a team of administrators make the call to cancel school for today. Staying in steady contact with the lead forecaster for the National Weather Service is just one of the many tools we use for making such a decision. Click the link to see the chart we use to help guide us in such decisions (windchillchart3). If exposed flesh can freeze in 5-10 minutes due to a combination of air temperature and wind speed, and those conditions will be sustained throughout much of the day, the Sioux Falls School District cancels school.  We had a similar day in January, 2010 – more information about how we make the decision can be found here.

Stay safe and warm today!

Comments Off

Happy Thanksgiving!

turkey1The Sioux Falls School District wishes everyone a safe and happy holiday weekend.  Icy_RoadWith the weather perhaps not cooperating with everyone’s travel plans, at least in this area, thoughts turn to the possibility of school being cancelled or postponed due to weather in the coming weeks and months.  Check out this post from last year concerning how those decisions are made or tune to KLRN TV (Midcontinent Channel 20) to view our Winter Weather Planning video.  Schedules for programming can be found here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Comments Off

Jan 7th – No School

14-snowfencepreThe Sioux Falls School District considers the safety of our students and staff to be our highest priority.  With potentially life-threatening wind chills, slick, snow-covered roads, and limited visibility, a team of dedicated administrators and staff members decided, very early this morning, to cancel school today.

“Snow days” are rare in the city of Sioux Falls because:  A.  Sioux Falls street crews do fantastic work clearing emergency snow routes and the streets near schools in a timely manner.  B.  All but a couple of our school bus routes are within city limits, and therefore are generally protected from blowing and drifting snow (this is why many smaller districts around Sioux Falls may not be having school, but Sioux Falls is).  C.  If school gets cancelled, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are affected: everyone from teachers and food service workers to the students and their parents who must make accommodations (or may miss working at their own jobs to stay home with children).  Any decision made as to late starts, early dismissals or cancellations is not made lightly.

Teams of administrators and staff members, in constant communication with city officials, snow plow operators, bus drivers, taxi companies, the National Weather Service, emergency management teams, and other school systems, physically travel the roads near schools and in residential areas to make sure that if school will be held as normal, students can safely get there.

A combination of factors, including the forecast for the remainder of the day, led to today’s decision.  Stay safe and warm today!

Comments Off