The last 48 hours have provided us with a reminder of all those day-to-day routines and comforts that we often take for granted; simple routines such as turning on a light switch when we walk into a room or the comfort of a hot shower and warm house. Of course this storm has also reminded all of us about a procedure that we have not had to deal with much this mild winter and that is the process of closing schools.
Unlike a snowstorm that impacts the entire area, this storm impacted individual schools. The decision to close the entire district on Thursday was the right decision. We had multiple schools without power and several others that had intermittent power. In addition, the full extent of the damage in the community had not yet been assessed. For educational reasons and safety reasons closing on Thursday was the best choice.
The decision to open the District on Friday, but close schools with no power, was also the right choice to make. On Friday, there were a small number of school district closures in the area as compared to a snowstorm. A review of the Friday school closure list, found on several local media websites, shows that: many individual schools were closed, specific schools within a bigger district were closed, or in some instances an entire district closed (please keep in mind that those districts are much smaller than Dearborn and only included a few buildings).
As Superintendent I work in collaboration with the Board of Education, Cabinet members, and school administrators to make the best decision with regards to all of our 20,700 students. In the case of holding school on Friday, we could not justify keeping all 20,700 students home and closing schools when power was working in 28 of our 34 buildings. Closing the entire district would not only create an inconvenience for many of our families but we would be depriving our students of their education/learning opportunities for a second day even though their building had not been impacted by the power outage.
I am part of the Wayne County Superintendents Association and in these types of situations I am in communication with Superintendents from surrounding districts. I receive updates on other closings and conditions almost immediately from my colleagues in other communities via conference/chat/text line.This sharing of information helps all of us in making the very important decision to close schools.
Within Dearborn, my administrative team, including our Safety and Security Specialist is monitoring road conditions and is in direct communication with the Dearborn Police Department. We are following their recommendations when it comes to safety protocol.
We communicate our intentions and status via the District website, the Superintendent’s blog, various social media outlets, and of course all major television and radio stations. For Friday’s closure we sent and posted multiple notifications in advance using several different media outlets. The message clearly had specific potential closings so that parents could plan ahead. I believe in being transparent and that is why we provided parents with the information we had starting at 6:00 pm Thursday evening, updating at 10:00 pm, and then making the final update at 5:00 am Friday. This gave us the flexibility to open more schools if the power had been restored.
If you are interested in hearing further information on how we reach our decision to close school please check out this video where we discuss all the factors that go into potential school closures. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFElWOEmH3s&t=139s&index=20&list=PLXkPl0dZzj_lbmBUeNCI8WRv1UZgyc-Kx
Safety is and will remain the number one priority that goes into any decision that is made to keep schools open or to potentially close schools. Ultimately, parents have the final say in making a decision concerning the wellbeing of their children and are always welcome to keep their children home if they believe there is a real safety concern. As a parent of two children I would make the same decision if I felt their safety was being compromised. However, in regards to the decision to open school on Friday I would send my children to school.
I would like to thank our entire school community during this time of crisis when individuals were in need of assistance. The Board of Education, our support staff, teaching faculty, administration, parents and students all stepped up to work together and support the best interest of not only our students but our entire school community. We are also grateful to the city administration and police who worked with us to set up warming shelters in our schools where families could go to stay warm. It is an honor and privilege for me to serve the students and community as the Superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools. I am extremely proud of everyone for the positive action of support for one another that has been initiated over the course of the past 48 hours.