Have you always wondered how Sycamore Community School District #427 makes their “Snow Day” decisions? We spent a few minutes with Kathy Countryman, Superintendent, to find out.
How many days out do you start watching a potential snow storm?
KC: We start looking at any potential snow predictions at least a week in advance. I then monitor the situation on a daily basis for updates. We also look at school calendars for the impact a school closing would have on classes and activities.
What are the criteria do you consider when calling a snow day?
KC: Student safety is always the main criteria for consideration of a snow day.
Other criteria we include are: the timing of the snowfall, predicted amounts, wind speed, wind chill, and road conditions.
How early do you make the determination?
KC: We make every effort to make a decision no later than 5:45 or 6:00 am. We know that closing schools has a HUGE impact on our families.
What goes into your decision-making process?
KC: I look at the weather forecast and road conditions provided by the state, and then I (along with other district personnel) drive the roads throughout the District early in the morning. I also work with Superintendents in neighboring Districts as well as Sycamore Police Department for further information. The District Transportation Department also provides input.
Who do you talk with when making the decision?
KC: As soon as a decision is made, I call our staff members responsible for contacting media outlets and sending the phone message. I also contact our administrative team and other key personnel.
Why are snow days sometimes called the night before, and other times not until the morning?
KC: Snow days can be called the night before if the forecast includes warnings or, in some cases, wind chill factors that would be dangerous for students and staff. However, because of the impact closing schools has on families, we try to avoid closing school at all costs. As you know, weather can be extremely unpredictable, so we always attempt to be as certain as possible that the conditions are too dangerous for travel before closing.
Does Sycamore ever dismiss school early because of snow?
KC: We have not dismissed early as a practice, but if the situation warrants could do so. We recognize that closing early can be extremely difficult for parents at work.
What is the best source of information for parents in regards to whether or not the district will be closed due to inclement weather?
KC: The phone message is a great source as this is activated as soon as the decision is made. Now is a GREAT time to verify your contact information in the Parent Portal. The closing is also placed on local media sources, the District website, and will be posted to the District’s Facebook page this upcoming winter — so make sure you like us!
How are snow days made up?
KC: Snow days are on the calendar as emergency days. This year we have designated the Presidents’ Day holiday as an emergency day (make up day) if a snow day occurs prior to the Presidents’ Day holiday. All other snow days will be made up at the end of the school year.
How can parents prepare for potential snow days?
KC: Parents should be sure the District has correct information in Parent Portal and plan to check out the District website and Facebook page. As well, plan for student care (if necessary). Also, stock up on hot chocolate, enjoy the day, and stay safe!