The Two-Hour Delay Decision

IMG_6613It’s always easier to be part of the group.  This morning (1/26/15) Worthington Schools made the decision to go to school on a two-hour delay when most of our surrounding school districts chose to close.  (Upper Arlington, Bexley and Grandview also chose to go to school.)  There is no simple formula for determining whether school should be open, delayed or closed.  It’s ultimately a judgment call.  Here’s what happened this morning…..

Our transportation director, George Sontag and I both were out driving Worthington and Columbus roads by 4:30 A.M.  We talked at 4:45 A.M. and both felt like roads were snow covered but the snow packed and we were both moving fairly easily. We both thought a two-hour delay may be the way to go but were not ready to make the call.  We knew Columbus had already decided to close for the day.

I spoke with the Superintendents of Dublin, Hilliard, Westerville and UA.  Dublin was struggling with their northern most roads in Jerome Township.  Hilliard and Westerville also worried primarily about their township roads.  Upper Arlington planned to go on time.

At 5:00 A.M. George and I talked again.  We still felt like a two-hour delay was appropriate.

At 5:15 A.M. Southwestern and Hilliard decided to close.  Upper Arlington decided to go on a delay to clear their parking lots.

At this point George and I both felt confident that two hours was the right call, but both of us were uncomfortable that Dublin, Hilliard, Olentangy and Westerville had closed.  (All those districts do have county roads on the edge of their districts that we do not have in WCS.)  In addition Franklin County issued a level one snow emergency.  A level one urges drivers to drive very cautiously.

Around 5:15 A.M. we decided to stick with our original assessment.  Our hope was that a delay would provide our staff time to clear parking lots and sidewalks and that our buses would be able to travel on roads in daylight that are clearer and with less traffic than at morning rush.

At 7:00 A.M. I did another drive around Columbus and Worthington roads.  At this point they were a little bit better but not much.  We discussed whether we were still comfortable with our two-hour delay decision.  Again, we were comfortable with our two-hour call.

Around 9:00 A.M. our buses began rolling to pick-up our students.  Conditions had improved greatly.  Some roads were still snow covered and were slow, but slipping was at a minimum

We recognize the delay was an inconvenience for families.  Our hope was that today would be a productive day of learning and that by delaying school two hours the roads and sidewalks were much safer to travel than they would have been.

I understand that all of us have a different tolerance for winter weather.  Reasonable people can believe we should have been closed today.  Others might believe we should never do a delay or that we should have gone to school on time.  I don’t have all the answers.  Our goal is to continue the learning process for our students on a consistent basis when we believe it is safe to do so.  That’s what we tried to do today.

-Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent

P.S.  As of this writing all of our schools are in session.  Buses ran mostly on time.  The commute to school was slippery and messy but we had no significant weather related issues.  Our scheduled athletic contests, Board of Education meeting, and Curriculum meetings, will occur as scheduled this evening.

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On Walkabout

linworth_alternativeLast week I had the opportunity to attend the Linworth Walkabout kick-off for 2015.  (Some parents referred to the event as the “kick-out”, as in kick-out of Linworth for the semester or even out of the house…)

The Linworth Alternative Program opened in 1973 as an option for high school students in Worthington.  The program is designed to more fully engage students in their educations by creating choices, requiring higher levels of responsibility, and having students apply what they have learned through experiential education.  A significant part of the experiential education is the Walkabout program.

The Linworth “Walkabout” program derives its name from the Australian aboriginal rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood which marks a transition from youth and school to adulthood and community life. It is designed to develop the skills, attitudes and values of responsible adulthood. Central to the program is the belief that being tested in a classroom setting doesn’t prove the ability to apply the knowledge. The test of Walkabout, and of life, is not what a student can do under a teacher’s direction, but what he or she can do as an individual.

Linworth seniors who have met graduation requirements may use all or a portion of the second semester to test their skills and abilities in the adult world of work. The students may choose to examine career and academic goals, offer community service, hone practical or survival skills, explore college programs, or participate in a research project or creative endeavor.

After the student interviews with a prospective mentor and both parties decide to proceed with a Walkabout (no decision is made on the spot), the student works at the chosen placement for nine weeks under the guidance of the mentor. Here, he or she experiences a representative sample of the activities of the business or service in a 50/50 exchange of service for learning.

This semester Linworth students will Walkabout in London, England, Pesaro, Italy, Austin, Texas, Deland, Florida and points throughout Ohio.  They’ll work in diverse fields such as Sex Trafficking Reform, Urban Ministry, the You Tube Music Industry, Marine Biology, Graphic Design, and on Alternative Fuel and Automobile Engineering.  The experiences and the locations are as diverse as the students themselves.

The partnership of the school and the community is essential to Linworth’s educational commitment to expose students to a broad spectrum of educational options. The continued support and assistance of the community is crucial to sustaining the necessary balance between classroom and experiential learning.

As the dad of three daughters I appreciate the faith the Linworth parents show both in our school and in their children.  Sending your 17 year old daughter off to Italy for nine weeks takes courage.  In talking with one mom she told me, “We worry a bit but she’ll figure it out.”  And really that’s what Walkabout and life are all about.  Learning by doing. Growing while pushing yourself into uncomfortable situations.

Our Linworth seniors are on Walkabout this semester.  They’re still Worthington students learning a significant amount.  Their classrooms have shifted from our schools to the wide open spaces across the globe.

-Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent

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Should We Close School for the Buckeyes?

OSUThe decision to close school is never an easy one.  As educators we want to be in school with our students learning.  Feedback that we receive from parents is that they also like to see their kids in school and learning.

However, from time to time the weather dictates that it may be safer to close school for the day.  Last Tuesday (1/6/15) we closed school because the snow covered roads were very difficult to travel and we did not feel buses or high school drivers would be safe.  On Thursday (1/8/15) we closed again.  This time the wind chill across Central Ohio was below -20 and this created a dangerous situation for our students waiting at the bus stop or walking to school.

While acts of nature may cause us to close school, we have determined that Buckeye Football games are not a reason for which we will close.  You likely read that a student started a petition to close all Ohio schools on Tuesday, January 13th because  the Buckeyes are playing in the National Championship football game tonight and the kick-off is after 8:30 P.M.

I’m sure that there are many of our families that think the idea of closing for a Buckeye game is just plain crazy.  It’s only a football game.  That said, another segment of our families believes it makes some sense.  The game is likely to be over past midnight and almost 50% of the televisions in Columbus were tuned in to the Ohio State v. Alabama Sugar Bowl game.  If those  numbers hold true for this game in Worthington Schools we could have almost 5,000 students coming to school Tuesday morning who are operating on just a few hours of sleep.  Our staff may be in a similar state.

Let’s face it, in Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State Football matters.  National Championship games don’t happen every year (they have happened for Ohio State in 4 of the last 13 years though…Go Bucks!) and the late kick-off time does create a challenge for our sports crazed city.

In Worthington we will be in school on Tuesday at our regularly scheduled time.  (Barring intervention from Mother Nature….)  We did make one small concession to the big game and moved our Board of Education Organizational Meeting up to 6:00 P.M. and our regular Board of Education Meeting up to 6:30 P.M.  Citizens of Worthington can attend the meetings and still see the game.

We love the Buckeyes in Worthington.  We just love going to school a little bit more.  I’ll be up late on Monday night.  I hope to be exhausted from watching the Buckeyes raise the trophy early on Tuesday morning.  Enjoy the game.  Cheer for the Bucks but be at school on time Tuesday morning!

-Trent Bowers, Assistant Superintendent

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Wind Chills and Winter Weather

Dear Students, Staff, and Parents:

The National Weather Service in Wilmington has issued a Wind Chill Warning from 7pm this evening until 1pm EST Thursday.

Wind Chills tonight and Thursday morning will range from 15 below zero to 30 below zero. The frigid conditions are dangerous to those venturing outdoors, and exposure may cause frostbite.

Therefore, I encourage you to monitor the district’s website, Facebook page and watch the local television stations for current information regarding possible school delays or closings.

Please have an enjoyable day.

Thomas S. Tucker,

Superintendent

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