Hamilton school board clarifies new rules on weather closures

News Feb 12, 2015 Hamilton Mountain News

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

A proposed new policy allowing Hamilton public schools to stay open when it’s too cold for diesel buses to start will be revised to clarify that it won’t apply to snow days when roads are unsafe.

Members of the board’s policy committee asked staff to rewrite the draft policy after the president of Hamilton’s public elementary teachers union warned his members risk “serious harm or death” if forced to drive to school in treacherous conditions.

Jeff Sorenson said the existing practice of automatically closing schools when buses are canceled has earned the board “an almost unique reputation in this matter as a progressive and humane employer.”

He said a teacher in Peterborough was killed last year while driving to school when snow canceled buses and questioned if the change is motivated by a wish to ensure the public doesn’t perceive teachers are getting a free day off.

“If it’s unsafe for buses, it’s unsafe for students and teachers,” Sorenson told the committee. “No day’s worth of student achievement can justify the injury or death of a single employee of this board.”

But superintendent Manny Figueiredo said the intent of the policy change is only to allow the flexibility to keep schools open on days when road conditions are safe but frigid temperatures incapacitate school buses’ diesel engines.

He said the change will mirror the Catholic board’s policy and schools can still be closed if extreme cold makes it unsafe for kids to walk to school or wait for lengthy periods for buses.

That call will be made by the education director or a designate.

“If the roads are unsafe and buses are canceled, we close schools. It’s the one-offs where there might be cases where diesel engines can’t start,” Figueiredo said. “The previous operating procedure left us no flexibility; it was all or nothing.”

Board chair Todd White said the previous board of trustees initiated the change last fall and never intended to keep schools open when snow cancels buses.

He said Sorenson’s concerns were justified based on the wording of the draft policy, which will be revised and presented to the committee next month before going to the full board for final approval.

“It doesn’t read as the intent that I recall,” White said.

Hamilton school board clarifies new rules on weather closures

News Feb 12, 2015 Hamilton Mountain News

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

A proposed new policy allowing Hamilton public schools to stay open when it’s too cold for diesel buses to start will be revised to clarify that it won’t apply to snow days when roads are unsafe.

Members of the board’s policy committee asked staff to rewrite the draft policy after the president of Hamilton’s public elementary teachers union warned his members risk “serious harm or death” if forced to drive to school in treacherous conditions.

Jeff Sorenson said the existing practice of automatically closing schools when buses are canceled has earned the board “an almost unique reputation in this matter as a progressive and humane employer.”

He said a teacher in Peterborough was killed last year while driving to school when snow canceled buses and questioned if the change is motivated by a wish to ensure the public doesn’t perceive teachers are getting a free day off.

“If it’s unsafe for buses, it’s unsafe for students and teachers,” Sorenson told the committee. “No day’s worth of student achievement can justify the injury or death of a single employee of this board.”

But superintendent Manny Figueiredo said the intent of the policy change is only to allow the flexibility to keep schools open on days when road conditions are safe but frigid temperatures incapacitate school buses’ diesel engines.

He said the change will mirror the Catholic board’s policy and schools can still be closed if extreme cold makes it unsafe for kids to walk to school or wait for lengthy periods for buses.

That call will be made by the education director or a designate.

“If the roads are unsafe and buses are canceled, we close schools. It’s the one-offs where there might be cases where diesel engines can’t start,” Figueiredo said. “The previous operating procedure left us no flexibility; it was all or nothing.”

Board chair Todd White said the previous board of trustees initiated the change last fall and never intended to keep schools open when snow cancels buses.

He said Sorenson’s concerns were justified based on the wording of the draft policy, which will be revised and presented to the committee next month before going to the full board for final approval.

“It doesn’t read as the intent that I recall,” White said.

Hamilton school board clarifies new rules on weather closures

News Feb 12, 2015 Hamilton Mountain News

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

A proposed new policy allowing Hamilton public schools to stay open when it’s too cold for diesel buses to start will be revised to clarify that it won’t apply to snow days when roads are unsafe.

Members of the board’s policy committee asked staff to rewrite the draft policy after the president of Hamilton’s public elementary teachers union warned his members risk “serious harm or death” if forced to drive to school in treacherous conditions.

Jeff Sorenson said the existing practice of automatically closing schools when buses are canceled has earned the board “an almost unique reputation in this matter as a progressive and humane employer.”

He said a teacher in Peterborough was killed last year while driving to school when snow canceled buses and questioned if the change is motivated by a wish to ensure the public doesn’t perceive teachers are getting a free day off.

“If it’s unsafe for buses, it’s unsafe for students and teachers,” Sorenson told the committee. “No day’s worth of student achievement can justify the injury or death of a single employee of this board.”

But superintendent Manny Figueiredo said the intent of the policy change is only to allow the flexibility to keep schools open on days when road conditions are safe but frigid temperatures incapacitate school buses’ diesel engines.

He said the change will mirror the Catholic board’s policy and schools can still be closed if extreme cold makes it unsafe for kids to walk to school or wait for lengthy periods for buses.

That call will be made by the education director or a designate.

“If the roads are unsafe and buses are canceled, we close schools. It’s the one-offs where there might be cases where diesel engines can’t start,” Figueiredo said. “The previous operating procedure left us no flexibility; it was all or nothing.”

Board chair Todd White said the previous board of trustees initiated the change last fall and never intended to keep schools open when snow cancels buses.

He said Sorenson’s concerns were justified based on the wording of the draft policy, which will be revised and presented to the committee next month before going to the full board for final approval.

“It doesn’t read as the intent that I recall,” White said.