• How Does NA Decide to Delay or Cancel School?

    The North Allegheny School District administration is always concerned first and foremost with the safety and well-being of students and staff. It is often our responsibility to make decisions that affect thousands of young people, and we take that responsibility very seriously. Nothing is more precious than the lives and futures of our children.

    That said, decisions related to weather forecasts are particularly challenging for a number of reasons.

    1. Predicting the future, even 12 or 15 hours in advance, is difficult. Even the National Weather Service (NWS), upon whom we depend for information, will agree that Mother Nature can be unpredictable.
    2. We are a large District and the weather conditions are sometimes inconsistent District-wide. For example, weather patterns in the northern sector of Marshall can be quite different than weather patterns in the southern sector of McCandless on a particular day. What one family sees out their window is not necessarily what every family sees or what most families are experiencing.
    3. The District has guidelines that help us make the decision to cancel or delay school. These guidelines were developed to represent the best interests of children in grades K – 12. While a small number of those children walk to school and several hundred drive to school, most ride our buses. Our ability to run our buses safely and efficiently is also a large factor in making the decision to delay or cancel. This is not the case in every school district in our area.
    4. Everyone has to accept a role in making accommodations for challenging weather circumstances.
      • The District will stay in close touch with the NWS and other key weather forecasting services. The District will also keep buses in top working condition and drivers trained for challenging driving conditions. The District will be out driving bus routes at 4:00 a.m. to assess road conditions when snow is a factor.
      • Parents also have a role. They must ensure that young people of every age are dressed appropriately for the weather; that back-up plans are in place for childcare and/or shelter in case of closings, delays, or early dismissals; and stay linked in to the several communication options* via which this information is distributed. We would also hope that parents encourage high school students to ride the bus instead of driving to school when road conditions are hazardous.

    Here are the general guidelines/considerations the District uses when making the decision for a weather-related two-hour delay or cancellation. It is important to emphasize that every decision is made on a case-by-case basis; school districts do confer with one another when bad weather is predicted to think these decisions through.

    The District will generally call a two-hour delay if some or several of the following conditions exist.

    1. Road conditions are snow-covered or icy, but will be safe for travel due to treatment and/or changing weather conditions in a short period of time.
    2. The weather forecast calls for a wind chill advisory of 20 degrees below 0 (or less) throughout the day.
      1. The District delays due to wind chill to allow time for the Transportation Department to get the bus fleet inspected and operational, as well as a time for the Facilities Department time to inspect and prepare buildings to open.
      2. Consideration is also given to the increased safety of driving and transporting students during daylight hours.
    3. Blizzard conditions exist that prohibit driving visibility.
    4. Facilities issues exist that can be resolved within a few hours.

    The District will generally cancel school if some or several of these conditions exist.

    1. Road conditions are snow-covered or icy and are not anticipated to be safe to travel prior to noon.
    2. The weather forecast calls for a wind chill warning of more than 20 degrees below 0.
    3. Blizzard conditions exist that prohibit driving visibility.
    4. Facilities or transportation issues cannot be resolved in time to open school on a delay schedule.

    In the end, it is rare that everyone is happy about the final decision to delay or close school when winter weather becomes an issue. For some families, finding childcare is a problem during delays and cancellations due to work-related commitments. Other families would appreciate a more liberal cancellation policy because they worry about their young children being outside in the cold. Of course, we hear from a number of students who support the decision to cancel school :)

    Parents do have the right to make the ultimate decision with regard to whether or not it is safe for their child to attend school when weather circumstances are severe. In this, as in every aspect of a student’s educational experience, the involvement of parents is a key factor. In almost every case, students come to our schools each day ready to learn and prepared for the challenges that await them. That readiness is a tremendous asset we do not take for granted…and they will appreciate more and more as the years go by.

    Thank you for your on-going support.

    * In the event of a school closure or delay, the North Allegheny School District disseminates information using these communication vehicles in this priority order: First an announcement is placed on the school website at northallegheny.org. Then the announcement is sent via SchoolMessenger. Parents can set up their personal accounts in SchoolMessenger so they receive a phone message, an email, and/or a text message. Local television stations are then informed.