Rockwood Superintendent Dr. Mark Miles brings special credentials to the decision-making process when it comes to canceling school due to "snow days" in the district.
In 1991, he received an "A" in Intro to Meteorology at Mizzou.
"The course was taught by a television meteorologist in Columbia," said Miles. "I thoroughly enjoyed the class and have been able to put the knowledge I gained in that class to good use as superintendent of schools."
So how does the superintendent of the largest school district in St. Louis County account for an A in something outside his area of expertise?
"Diligent work and effort and a long time studying weather charts and patterns," said Miles, laughing. "It was a fun class."
Twenty-nine years later, that same diligence -- along with some long nights -- goes into making decisions about whether to cancel school due to inclement weather.
When asked about the process for inclement weather cancellations, Dr. Miles shared the following:
How far in advance do you begin to plan for consideration of a snow day?
That process begins at least 10 days in advance with looking at the long-range, 10-day forecast. From November through March, I am looking at least once a day at the 10-day forecast. So if there is a significant weather event approaching, I can begin to plan with our communications, facilities and transportation personnel.
What happens the night before a potential weather event?
The night before, multiple staff members are staying up late and monitoring the weather and road conditions. I am in frequent communication with them.
What happens the morning of a potential weather event?
Several staff members again drive around to reassess conditions throughout the 150 square miles of the district. When we consider whether to cancel school, we look at the type, amount and timing of the precipitation, always with a focus on keeping our students and staff safe. We want to make the decision as early as possible to notify staff who may need to depart for work early and parents and students who don't need to be on the roads unnecessarily. I would encourage our parents to be prepared because the forecast isn't always entirely correct.
Why can't you cancel classes the night before?
I will cancel school the night before whenever possible and when conditions call for it. Canceling the night before is always preferred. However, we will generally have more accurate information the morning of a potential weather event.
What resources do you utilize in considering whether to cancel school?
We receive reports and information from many sources. For example, the National Weather Service provides high-level summaries via email regarding the amount, timing and location of precipitation, including forecast details, impact and recommended actions to take. I am also in contact with MoDOT (Missouri Department of Transportation). In addition, we monitor local media for road conditions and weather forecasts. Finally, I am part of a collaborative conference call with other St. Louis area superintendents around 4:15 a.m.
Do we ever cancel school due to cold temperatures?
Historically, Rockwood has distinguished between wind chill advisories and wind chill warnings. We have not closed school for wind chill advisories as our buildings and buses are safe and warm. We only consider school cancellations under wind chill warnings -- the more severe of the two. The National Weather Service in St. Louis defines these as:
--wind chill advisory = -15 to -24 degrees F
--wind chill warning = -25 degrees F or colder
Parents and staff members have multiple sources to check for our school closing information. We'll send a voicemail, a text and an email message. The information is also posted on the district website, Facebook and Twitter and is communicated through local media. We do what we can to get the information to our community in an efficient and effective manner.
Because the school district covers such a large geographic area, we have to consider conditions throughout the entire district. Picking and choosing which schools are in and out would be chaotic, at best. Even though conditions could be quite variable between the northern and southern parts of the district, we must consider conditions throughout the entire district.
I appreciate the understanding of our families and students as we make these important decisions, putting safety first.