Talk of the District: Making Difficult Decisions about School Closings

Stillwater Area School District Superintendent Corey Lunn discusses how decisions are made about school closings in inclement weather.

My Thanksgiving break was spent enjoying time with family, getting caught up on home projects, beginning our holiday shopping and watching a few movies and football games. It was also a time for updating ski equipment, getting the sleds down from the attic, and watching the snow begin to gather on the landscape. Whether we like it or not, these are all signs that cold weather is arriving and with it the possibility of inclement weather.

Don’t get me wrong –being a lifelong Minnesotan I have learned to embrace (or more accurately “put up”) with the cold weather and snow. And even though I enjoy the changing seasons and snow-inspired recreation, since becoming a school superintendent the possibility of having to make difficult decisions to close schools has diminished my appreciation for winter.

The reason is simply that no matter what the decision may be—to have school or to close school—there will always be people unhappy. Regardless, difficult decisions must sometimes be made to ensure the safety of our students and staff.

Unlike many of the other decisions I make in the course of my job, the decision to close school often is made quickly, without much data to review or input from stakeholders. There are no magic numbers regarding temperatures, amount of snows, wind chills, or other factors to help guide this decision.

The large area in which our school district covers—more than 150 square miles from Afton to Marine—makes this even more difficult. Conditions may be fairly nice in one end of the district and very bad with unplowed roads and dangerous weather in another.

At the possibility of bad weather I watch the weather forecasts throughout the night and early morning. By about 4 a.m. I am in contact with our assistant superintendent and operations director, a bus company representative, local law enforcement and city officials as needed.

During this time roads are driven and we all discuss the status of the weather and conditions across the school district. Any communications and updates that I can provide to others will also take place during this time. I will then be in contact with superintendents in neighboring school districts to share information, and most often reach a joint decision. This decision is made as early as possible.

Should we decide that our schools will be closed or school hours will be altered, all of our families will receive an automated phone message from the district. Parents who have shared an email address with us will also receive the message by email. This message will be sent as soon as possible following a decision.

If closing school for the day, our goal is to have the message reach families by 6 a.m. whenever possible. It is rare to delay the start of a school day as this often results in the most disruptions for families. If classes are cancelled for the entire day all regular after-school and Community Education classes are also cancelled.

More details and information for our students at Valley Crossing School, school events and activities, including athletics can be found at www.stillwaterschools.org under “parent and student resources”.

School closing information will also be available via WCCO-830 radio and any of the local television stations – Channels 4, 5, 9 or 11. Any information will also be posted on our district website, www.stillwaterschools.org, as well as school websites, and updated on the school district’s weather hotline at 651-351-8099.

Or stay connected on Facebook and Twitter (@stillwater834 or @CoreyLunn834) to receive the latest updates.

Follow the Superintendent Lunn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CoreyLunn834
Follow the Superintendent Lunn on Tout:
Follow the District on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stillwater834
Like us on Facebook:
Watch us on YouTube: www.youtube.com/stillwaterschools834

Ultimately the choice to send a child to school belongs with parents. I am a strong believer that the parent ultimately has the best information regarding the weather and road conditions at their home. Parents always have the option during inclement weather to keep their children at home. There will be no school penalty and/or consequences for this choice. I only ask that parents make sure to communicate with their children’s school their choice in this manner.

The upcoming winter season can be an enjoyable and joyous time of the year. It can also be a time of bad weather and reason for caution. I will continue to do all I can to make the best decisions for the safety of all our students, families and staff across the St. Croix Valley. 

-- Superintendent Corey Lunn can be contacted via email at lunnc@stillwater.k12.mn.us or by phone at 651-351-8301. Questions can also be sent by mail to Superintendent, Stillwater Area Public Schools, 1875 South Greeley Street, Stillwater.



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