From the desk of Stefan Czaporowski, November 2018

From the desk of Stefan Czaporowski, Superintendent of Schools
Posted on 11/20/2018
School Cancellation Procedures

From the desk of Stefan Czaporowski, Superintendent of Schools

As we approach the winter season, it seems Mother Nature is determined to get a bit ahead of herself. I wasn’t planning to write this article until sometime in December but since we have already had to use one emergency closing day because of snow, I will take this opportunity to address our district snow day procedures. One of the many responsibilities that superintendents have is to call weather cancellation days or two-hour delays. I assure you that all superintendents take this responsibility seriously and utilize a variety of data sources including weather forecasts, current conditions, and community consultations, to make these decisions. Simply put, we do the best we can with the information that we have.  Ultimately, a collective decision is made with the safety of our students and staff as the top priority. 

Before I cancel school or call for a two-hour delay, there is quite a bit of groundwork that occurs. The first calls that are made, starting at about 4:30 a.m., include the school transportation and maintenance departments, the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Westfield Police Department, the Mayor, other superintendents in the area, and in extreme cases, Emergency Management. I ask about road and sidewalk conditions and the status of our school parking lots and walkways. I also text various staff members from around the city to see how things are in their neighborhoods.  In some cases, the roads may be fine, but since approximately fifty percent of our students our classified as walkers, I also need to consider whether residents have had the opportunity to shovel and treat their sidewalks. 

Delivering the message to stakeholders is my next task. To head off bus departures, we must get the word out before 5:30 a.m. I immediately contact several central office staff members who spread the message to our local television and radio stations, post information on our district website, contact local cable channel 15, and notify our bus company. I then post notifications on our district Facebook page and send out a text message. My final step in this process is to send out a robocall. Unfortunately, robocalls can take up to an hour to reach all our families and staff members. Text message really is the fastest way that families can be notified of a delayed start, early dismissal, or school cancellation. If you haven’t signed up for text notifications yet, I would encourage you to do so. You can participate in this free service by sending a text message of “Y” or “Yes” to our district code number, 67587. 

Most of us remember that two years ago we had a total of eight weather cancellation days. For that reason, our district implemented Alternative Structured Learning Days, or Blizzard Bags that our staff developed to be used after emergency closure days were utilized.  This ensured that we would not go to school beyond the five emergency days built into the school calendar. For the current school year, Westfield Public Schools will again use the same format for Alternative Structured Learning Days. Our Alternative Structured Learning Day program is providing us with a nice safety net to ensure that we will not get out of school as late as we did two years ago. So far, Westfield Public Schools has had to use one weather cancellation day, placing the last day of school on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. If we were to use all emergency days this year, our last day of school would be Monday, June 24, 2019. And if we end up not using the Alternative Structured Learning Day assignments, they will again be used before the end of this school year.

When weather cancellation days or delays are called, please know that we consider the safety of all our staff and students. I also want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that if it becomes necessary to call a two-hour delay on an early release staff development day, the day will become a full day of school for students and that staff development will be postponed. When possible, this notification would go out the night before so that families are able to plan accordingly. 

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us in the Westfield Public Schools!

Stefan Czaporowski
Superintendent of Schools
Westfield Public Schools