Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ashland School District closures: The ‘how’ and ‘why’

Mug shot: Jay W. Hummel, superintendent, Ashland School District
Jay W. Hummel
In keeping with my mandate as an information worker, to educate and inform, here’s a message from Ashland Public Schools superintendent Jay W. Hummel concerning the recent school closures and the deliberation that goes into canceling a school day.

These last several days have been quite difficult for all involved. I am sorry for the obvious inconvenience our school closures have caused for you. Providing safe and quality educational services to our community is my top priority, and I take this responsibility very seriously. So, the loss of learning time for our children, even a small amount, is a concern. When we do decide to cancel a school day, our supervisors have carefully assessed the safety and readiness of critical services for all students:

1. Our Transportation Director communicates with district-wide contacts to determine the extent of the challenges, and decide if our buses can travel safely. We provide transportation to approximately 500 students a day, to many students who live in remote areas, further from our schools, and at higher elevations. In addition, she must consider the added congestion caused by 2,500 students either walking or being driven to school.

2. Our Facilities Manager assesses every school parking lot and sidewalk, and monitors the readiness of building heating, water and electric.

After we have reviewed our critical systems, a final decision needs to be made and communicated no later than 6:30 each morning, so parents have enough time to make appropriate plans. We did not meet this deadline last Friday. There were a number of internal and external communication systems that failed us that morning. We now have planned backup systems so these won’t be issues in the future. Regardless, I’m sorry for the problems I know were caused by our late notification.

Fortunately, the severity of this storm appears to be quite rare. By some accounts, Ashland has not seen this much snow, this early, with these cold temperatures for over 30 years.

Our crews continue to work hard to restore our facilities so we can go back to school soon. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Blog author’s note: This statement was posted at 1:32 p.m. Wednesday to the Ashland School District’s Facebook page. At 4:20 p.m., the district indicated on its website that a one-hour delayed start time is in effect for Thursday.

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