As temperatures in metro Atlanta threaten to dip near freezing this week, I am reminded of how stressful the inclement weather associated with this time of year can be on everyone. Will I get caught in the snow? Will my child be stuck on a bus on the interstate? Is it too cold to walk home or take the bus?
Below you will see how we make critical decisions and understand why I have already decided to cancel afterschool activities for Friday, Jan. 6, and all activities on Saturday, Jan. 7. We will follow a staggered schedule as we dismiss students two hours early on Friday.
In my life, I have experienced the full range of weather from always cold and snowy (Cambridge, Mass., and Washington D.C.) to sheer freezing (Saint Paul, Minn.) to warm and icy within days (Austin, Texas and Atlanta), so I understand the various impacts weather conditions can have on our students and staff.
We cannot control Mother Nature, but we can try to be as prepared as possible. So I want to take a moment to remind you of our inclement weather practices as well as our notification procedures. Remember: Amid the threat of inclement weather, our No. 1 concern is the safety of our students and our staff.
When severe weather threatens the Atlanta area, we diligently update our website and keep every school principal notified. Whenever you feel the need to contact APS about weather issues, please call your school first. I make certain all principals are updated in real time about our inclement weather decisions, so they will always have the information.
In addition, I encourage you to log in to the campus portal for parents, update your preferences for emergency notifications, which include robo-calls, text messages and e-mails at http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/CPP.
In general, we maintain a vigilant watch on weather conditions, particularly through the harshest parts of winter. I have a Core Weather Team (comprised of representatives from APS Operations, Transportation, Safety & Security, Facilities Services, Communications, Schools and Academics, Nutrition and Information Technology departments) which monitors reports from such groups as Atlanta Fulton County Emergency Management, Georgia Emergency Management and the National Weather Service.
In a live conference call, we assess the weather information and emergency plans driven by Atlanta Fulton County Emergency Management Office, the National Weather Service and others. In these conference calls, the team relies heavily on National Weather Service input. Before I make a final decision, I also communicate with area superintendents.
We notify parents, caregivers and staff as soon as we make a decision based on weather conditions with the intent of providing such notifications at a time that enables you to take care of your children and families safely and expediently.
Mother Nature is unpredictable, so the decision-making process doesn’t always fall into a neat timeline. But this is how the decision process typically unfolds depending on when we get weather reports.
When inclement weather is expected for the next day, we begin monitoring the weather by 11 a.m. and hold an initial APS call at 7 p.m. If a decision is made to close or open schools, we immediately notify media outlets and APS parents, caregivers and staff. We continue monitoring the weather and hold a final decision call at 3:30 a.m., after which we immediately make notifications.
If inclement weather is forecasted the same day, we hold a morning decision call at 9:30 a.m. and, if necessary, again at 2 p.m. about evening district activities. We make notifications immediately after decisions are made.
We understand our school community’s concerns during these moments, and we always do our best to communicate these latest developments with you.