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School Closures: Frequently Asked Questions

With the winter months come the possibility of school closures and schedule changes. The decision to change school schedules because of adverse conditions is based on one factor; the safety of all students and staff. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about emergency school closures:

When are decisions made about school closures, and how will I know?
The district makes every effort to decide and announce decisions to close schools before 6 a.m. The planning and review process actually begins the night before. Once a decision is made, a message will be sent to Jeffco families via SchoolMessenger and local media will be notified The district’s telephone hotline at 303-982-6600, and the school system Web page are also updated. There is a link to this information from the district’s home page.

What factors go into the decision?
Weather and road conditions are checked throughout Jefferson County beginning the night before. Using a variety of resources the school district gathers as much information as possible before making the decision. District officials monitor ongoing weather reports, including those from a private weather forecasting service, and road conditions from the Colorado Department of Transportation, and local and state law enforcement agencies. “Weather spotters,” such as school bus drivers and transportation personnel who are arriving at area bus terminals, and maintenance crew members who are assigned to plow school parking lots and sidewalks are consulted. Classes cannot be held if parking lots and access areas to schools are dangerous or impassible. District transportation officials will provide a recommendation before 5 a.m. to the community superintendent responsible for making the final decision after a thorough review of all available data collected. If classes are to be cancelled or delayed, the district’s Communications Services office will notify local media – television and radio – between 5 and 6 a.m. or earlier when possible.

Other school districts have delayed openings, but Jeffco rarely does this. Why?
Weather conditions may vary throughout the metro area, as well as other unique situations, such as transportation availability, so each decision is based on how conditions will affect students attending a particular school and/or school district. Officials are sensitive to the fact that students may arrive late when weather conditions are poor.

Is there a set temperature that would cause the district to close schools?
No. There is no set temperature that would cause the district to close schools, but it is one of the many factors, along with road conditions, that are taken into consideration when making a school closure decision. Extreme temperatures may cause schools to limit recess, off-campus lunch hours for high schools, and extracurricular activities.

Sometimes schools have power outages or other emergencies such as broken pipes. When this happens, what is the procedure at Jeffco Public Schools?
District personnel make every effort to protect students, provide for their comfort and ensure their safety. Sometimes power outages cause classrooms to get cold, but the district does not want to send students home unsupervised or to cold and dark houses. School principals can make the decision to send students home. If this happens the district notifies the news media and information is sent to families via SchoolMessenger and is posted on the district’s Web site and on the hotline at 303-982-6600. The district also must mobilize school buses, which can take time. Students will not be transported home without parent notification and contact.

What happens when the number of school days lost due to emergency school closures exceeds the number of school days required by the state?
State law requires a specific number of hours of classroom instruction each school year. If a school does not meet this requirement the school year must be extended.

 

How can I make sure my student is safe?
Since parents are the primary protectors they will need to decide what is best for their children. The option to keep children home when weather conditions are extreme is always at the parents' discretion and the school understands and respects the decision. Parents can contact the school and arrange for an excused student absence.

In cold weather students should be dressed appropriately. No one can predict when a fire alarm might go off or when buildings might have to be evacuated due to an emergency. Bulky coats and boots can be stored in classrooms, or other areas designated by the principal in addition to student lockers.

Parents are urged to make arrangements at the beginning of each school year for their children in case of school closures and to plan for the rare situation when it is necessary to close an individual school because of a power failure or another circumstance. Children should know where to go if a parent will not be home and how to contact parents and guardians. Parent contact information, including work telephone numbers, should be kept up-to-date with the school. If you are instructed to pick up your student at a location other than their school due to a school closure, you will be ask to present photo ID before the student will be released.

What about school bus transportation when the weather is bad?
All bus stops will be serviced in inclement weather unless an emergency announcement is made via the local media and district Web site. In inclement weather, buses may run late for a variety of reasons. Prepare your child, in suitable clothing, to wait additional time at the bus stop, (usually less than 15 minutes). Jeffco buses operating in the north and central parts of the district run on bio-diesel fuel, which is more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient; however, buses using this fuel can be hard to start in very cold weather. District transportation staff has made allowances for this issue, but it is best that parents and their children be prepared for buses to run late on inclement weather days.

Parents should have a contingency plan in the event that a bus is running extremely late or breaks down before reaching the bus stop. Discuss with your child what to do and who to call if the bus does not arrive. Have a neighbor, or reliable student "buddy" at the same stop that can help. 

Does the school district ever close some schools and leave others open?
Yes. The district may close select schools due to unsafe conditions, but leave other schools open that may not be affected. The Jeffco Public School district covers more than 790 square miles and conditions can vary throughout the county.

How can I find out about school closures or changes in schedules?

Update your contact information in Jeffco Connect to ensure emergency messages are sent to your phone numbers and e-mail accounts.

The district immediately contacts the local news media and requests that alerts are issued when there is a school closure or other emergency situation. Watch major local television stations and listen to the radio. Closure information is also available on the district’s Web site at http://www.jeffcopublicschools.org, and on the hotline at 303-982-6600.