School Beat — November 5, 2009

Bus safety, determining delays, school closings

Assistant Superintendent
Human Resources

Welcome to another school year. We look forward to many successes for you and your children throughout the 2009-2010 school year. The Rockford educational community, along with the entire Rockford community, is truly a special place to live, grow and learn.

It is hard to believe we are looking at fall (fog) and winter (snow and ice) weather already. Where does time go? Please read the information below as a reminder of how/why we decide to delay the opening of school or close school for the day.

Rockford Public Schools (RPS) clearly understands the issues a snow day and/or two-hour delay causes students, parents and staff. The decision to close school or implement a two-hour delay is based on the safety of our students, parents and staff.

We have an employee who is responsible for checking roads and driving conditions, beginning as early as 3:00 a.m. during the late fall and winter months. This person drives throughout the 100 square miles of the district, checking for problematic roads—gravel roads, as well as main thoroughfares. In some cases, driving conditions can vary greatly from one side of our district to the other.

Beginning around 5:00 a.m., the person checking our roads is in constant contact with me (Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources), Director of Transportation Jacquie Fase, and in many cases the Kent County Road Commission and local weather stations, as well as transportation departments of other districts. Collectively, they share information received, and a recommendation is made to Superintendent Michael Shibler.

Our goal is to make a decision to close school or implement a two-hour delay prior to 5:30 a.m. so parents may make plans for the day. However, the weather may become inclement later in the early morning and, as a result, the decision to close or implement a delay becomes more complicated. WZZM 13, FOX 17 WXMI and WOOD TV 8, as well as our district Web page at, have updated information regarding school closings and/or delays. In addition, you may contact our transportation department at (616) 863-6328 or central office administration at (616) 863-6320 any time you have questions.

Driving school buses through snow is not a problem for the drivers or the buses. Our drivers are highly trained to maneuver in various weather and road conditions. In addition, our drivers are very sensitive to the driving skills of others on the road. Ice, however, presents additional challenges.

Your child is much safer riding in a school bus, as opposed to a private vehicle, due to the height and weight of a bus. School buses are manufactured under strict guidelines from the state and federal governments and are designed with high, padded seats to protect students. “Compartmentalization” is the latest catch phrase in assuring student safety on a school bus. What this means is simply keeping students within the framework of their personal seating area. This is why it is so important that students stay seated while the bus is in motion.

Closing school or delaying the start of the school day is always a tough decision. Please be assured, however, that Superintendent Michael Shibler relies on information from several sources, and safety is his top priority when making the decision.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at (616) 863-6554.

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