School Schedule Alteration

Snow covered buses

2014-2014 Closing of Schools Brochure - PDF Format - (Adobe Reader Link)

Philosophy of Operation

The general philosophy of the Washington County School Division concerning school schedules is to always place the safety of students and employees as first priority. The division strives to operate its schools on a regular and consistent daily schedule to promote maximum student learning and general operational efficiency. Because of Washington County’s large geographical area covering 566 square miles and the wide disparity in elevation throughout the county, bordering Scott, Russell, Smyth and Grayson Counties, Bristol City, VA, Johnson County TN and Sullivan County TN, weather patterns vary a great deal during the seasons of the year, especially during the winter.

In the process of making the decision to alter the school schedule, we also consider and make use of bus-routing options. When appropriate, we have buses in some areas of the county run on a different schedule to avoid penalizing the schedule for the entire school division.

Making the decision to alter the school division’s schedule is in no way an exact science and is usually not easy, but we always try to “err” on the side of safety.

Procedure/Timeline for Decision Making

Delayed Schedule

3:30 A.M. — Transportation Manager Starts Checking Roads

The Transportation Manager drives routes to check conditions of roads that several buses would be traveling. These roads are the most rural roads, and they include roads in Taylor’s Valley, Konnarock, Meadowview, and the Abingdon area. There are also several roads in Bristol that are checked, but the Meadowview, Damascus, and Abingdon areas seem to get more of the harsh weather due to their elevation.

5:00 A.M. — Re-Check Weather Conditions

The Transportation Manager checks the weather forecast again for the day. He then calls drivers that live in Konnarock and/or Bristol and asks for an update on the road conditions near their homes. If things have changed drastically, some of the roads are then checked again.

5:00 – 5:15 A.M. — Superintendent Notified of Road Conditions by Transportation Manager

The Transportation Manager calls the Superintendent to provide an update on the situations that have been experienced thus far. A decision is then made about schedule alterations.

5:15 – 5:30 A.M. — Calls to Radio/Television Stations, Etc.

If an altered schedule is needed, the Transportation Manager begins calling radio and television stations.

Each station has a specific code assigned to our school district. Once all stations are notified and the correct codes are entered with the schedule alteration that Washington County Schools will be experiencing, the School Closing Hot Line is updated (276-676-9669 & 466-4110).

The Superintendent sends out a message on the emergency text line, the keep in contact listserve, the Washington County news listserve, the staff listserve, and updates the Washington County Schools’ website.

7:00 – 8:00 A.M. — Delayed Schedule to Closed

If the delayed schedule needs to be changed to “closed”, the Transportation Manager calls radio and television stations.

The Superintendent sends out a message on the emergency text line, the keep in contact listserve, the Washington County news listserve, the staff listserve, and updates the Washington County Schools’ website.

Early Dismissal

There are times when the daily school schedule must be altered after the school day has begun. These “early dismissals” may be caused by inclement weather or other emergencies which necessitate guarding student and staff safety. When the school administration is alerted to the possible need to dismiss school early, communication is initiated immediately with agencies and individuals who are knowledgeable of the situation creating the emergency. Information is gathered quickly by school administrators, and a careful analysis of the facts is conducted before the Superintendent of Schools makes the decision to dismiss early.

Once this decision is made, the same media that are used for a “delayed schedule” are used by school administrators to notify parents, staff and others of the decision. Every effort is made to make this call in a timely manner to allow for adjustments in schedules and arrangements for the safety of students and staff.

Emphasis on Safety of Students and Employees

Safety of students on buses and students driving, along with school employees, is of the utmost importance in determining school schedule changes. Other important factors are whether a road is snow and/or ice covered and if there is a forecast of more snow or ice to come.

Example: Roads might be snow/ice covered at 5:00 a.m. with forecasts showing more snow/ice to come, and there would be a need to close schools; however, if roads are snow covered and the forecast is calling for the snow to stop and the temperature to rise, it is usually only necessary to go on a two (2) or three (3) hour delay. Forecasts are not always accurate, so it is necessary to continue checking roads throughout the morning on a day of delayed schedule.

Note: A three-hour delay is only expected to be used in early fall/winter and late winter/spring when temperatures may rise quickly after sunrise.

The goal is to have the announcement of school alteration to radio/television stations by 5:30 a.m. If the delayed schedule needs to be changed to closed, notification will be between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. This helps parents that may need to make alternate arrangements for their child(ren) due to the school alterations that have been made.