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APS Snow Patrol Heads Out Early to Determine School Delays, Closures
November 30, 2010
As the temperature drops and snowflakes begin to fall from the darkened winter sky, visions of school delays or, even better, closures dance in the heads of students and, yes, some APS staff, too.
The decision to delay or cancel schools due to inclement weather is not taken lightly. As early as 2:30 a.m., APS Police and Student Transportation Services are on the road determining whether roads are clear enough to provide safe routes for school buses loaded with children.
These road scouts usually head first into the mountains and as far east as Chilili, then west along I-40 toward Tohajiilee, two areas typically hit hardest by winter storms. They’re checking for snow. They’re checking for ice. They’re checking for visibility. Bottom line, they’re checking for safety.
APS also consults city, county and state road departments; local and state police; school bus companies; even snow watch volunteers who report conditions in their neighborhoods. A decision needs to be made by 5:30 a.m. before the first school buses head out to pick up kids.
Inevitably, the decision – no matter what it is – will be met with cheers and jeers. APS stretches across 1,200 square miles – the boundaries for A. Montoya Elementary School alone cover 200 square miles – so conditions within the school district can vary vastly during a storm. Blue skies at one school, a blizzard at another; clear roads on one part of town, sheets of ice a few miles down the road.
APS has a detailed snow watch plan, updated annually, that outlines what it will do in the case of inclement weather. It defines an abbreviated day as one that begins two hours later than the regular schedule but ends at the regular time. Typically, this means a start time of 9:40 a.m. for high schools, 10:35 a.m. for middle schools and 11:15 a.m. for elementary school depending on their regular schedules. Reporting time for school employees also is delayed by two hours.
According to the snow watch plan, the district will delay school when severe weather causes street conditions that would “endanger the safety of students to school and school employees to work.” Those conditions often clear up when the sun comes out and melts the ice on roads.
Sometimes weather conditions don’t get better or grow worse following the decision to implement an abbreviated schedule, making it necessary to close schools. This decision is made no later than 8 a.m.
If severe weather conditions materialize during the school day, students may be dismissed early. Early dismissal can impact some parts of APS and not others. The district tries to make such decisions before 11:30 a.m., otherwise it becomes difficult to arrange for school buses to pick up kids.
Information about snow delays, closures and early releases are posted to the APS website at . The website is constantly updated with the latest information. The information also is shared with local media. And it is posted to the APS Facebook page. In addition, parents also will be notified by phone and/or email by their school or the district through ParentLink, a school-to-home communications system. Principals are responsible for notifying their staffs.
The East Mountain schools, including A. Montoya and San Antonito elementaries and Roosevelt Middle School, have more delays and closures than other APS schools, so they have their own set of rules such as: