It’s that time of year again, when we are faced with the possibility of closing school due to bad weather, which is very difficult in a community full of drivers from Alaska to Hawaii and everywhere in-between. The decision is even harder due to the size and complexity of our district, meaning that LPS cannot very easily close school mid-day like smaller districts. We simply have too many students and overlapping bus routes to send kids home early to potentially unsafe situations like locked-up houses. We are all-in or all-out, which means some days we close school based on a dire forecast – without a snowflake. On other occasions, we stay open and bad weather comes in unexpectedly. It can be one of the more unpleasant decisions I have to make each year.
We have gotten much more sophisticated in recent years, however, mainly due to the welcomed assistance of Fort Sill. The Army has many more resources at their disposal, so we communicate closely and often. In addition to this, LPS staff participates in special conference calls directly with the National Weather Service. And of course, we rely upon KSWO, because outsiders cannot seem to adequately appreciate the Wichita Mountain effect on our local weather. These partnerships have been welcomed, because when the region can make a joint decision, everyone wins.
Of course, we prefer to make the call the day before in order to make life easier on everyone. Unfortunately, Mother Nature rarely cooperates, and we spend many mornings driving the streets of Lawton at 4:00 AM, when donut shops are not even open yet! Closing school at 5:00 AM makes everyone but students very unhappy because everyone must scramble to make last-minute arrangements. Whenever possible, I always prefer to make the call the night before.
Many parents and students new to Lawton are not familiar with Oklahoma’s school laws pertaining to “snow days.” Because we count hours, we can build extra days into our schedule. Even if we must close school for several days, we generally do not have any problems. Last year was the first year in about a decade that we had to make-up days, but it was an anomaly due to “flu days” and the work stoppage. In addition to snow and ice days, parents often ask if we have any policy about closing school if the weather gets too cold. We do not have any such policy, but we do consider cold in our decisions. Fortunately, Lawton is a relatively warm climate, so we can hopefully avoid this problem this winter.
I do not wish to oversimplify the process, but it all boils down to one question for me: Do I want my most inexperienced drivers on the road? If this group will struggle, then we do not need anyone on the road. As of the time of this article, we had not closed school for Friday, but a lot of factors were still up in the air. Ultimately, I alone am responsible for these decisions, so I cannot point any fingers. It is all about the safety of our students and staff, so I will always err on the side of caution. I hope my decision was the right one, but invariably, I have already heard from several people who cannot imagine how I made such a bad decision. You are probably right, because I am terrible at predicting the future. Either way, I hope you had a blessed weekend. Please stay warm, and please pray for the safety of our children this second Sunday of the month.