Since the Alpena Public School District covers well over 600 square miles, road conditions are a big concern and can differ remarkably from one corner of the district to another. School closing decisions are always made based on the best information we can gather at the time and with student safety as the first priority.
Every family should have a plan for what to do in case school is dismissed early. This plan needs to be explained and understood by your child. For very young children, write it out and make sure the teacher has it, too. When an emergency happens, you will be glad that you and your child are prepared and not depending on phone systems that might be jammed or out of power.
When school is cancelled for the day, or when weather conditions or some other emergency make early dismissal the best option, we try to make this announcement in as many ways as possible. You can learn about school closings in these different ways:
- Our SchoolMessenger notification system will call the primary residence phone number we have on file for each student. The system also has the option of sending SMS text messages or e-mails. We ask parents (and new families when they enroll) to help keep us up to date with any changes to your contact information.
- This website will have an announcement on every page explaining the details of the closure or early dismissal.
- We post closings on social media sites, too. At this time, we maintain a Facebook page and a Google+ page. Follow us on either of those services!
- Visit one of the many fine local media outlets listed to the left. We share details with them to pass on to you.
Please do not call our switchboard or school buildings for school closure information, especially during an early dismissal or emergency! At these times, it is critical that our phone lines remain open.
How is the Decision Made?
When questionable weather is forecast, the Superintendent consults with the National Weather Service, local law enforcement, the Road Commission and will often go out to personally drive key roads around the county in order to determine if it is safe to roll the buses. It's not possible to check every road in the county. It's not even possible to check every bus route - our buses drive the equivalent of Alpena to Orlando, Florida and back every day! But the Superintendent makes the call based on the best information available at the time. Every attempt is made to decide early enough to notify employees and families - usually well before 5:00 AM.
Closing School Early
Early closure is an option that the District uses when it appears that conditions will deteriorate and make travel at the end of the day more dangerous. Student safety is the priority. Once students are in attendance, school is the safest place for them. Unplanned early dismissals can put students in situations where there are not caregivers available at home. Bad weather during the day won't mean automatic early dismissal, especially when it appears that conditions will stabilize (or improve) by the normal ending time. As with all such decisions, the Superintendent will consult with the National Weather Service, local law enforcement, and the Road Commission to determine if an early closure is better for student safety than waiting until normally scheduled dismissal.
What About "Two-Hour Delays?"
Many small districts are able to delay the start of school to give plows time to clear roads or for conditions to improve enough to make it safe for buses to travel. Unfortunately, the size of the APS district makes this impractical. Some of our buses begin picking up students before 6:00 AM. A two-hour delay would move this back to a pickup time that's still before 8:00 AM. Here in northern Michigan, the sun isn't fully up by 8:00 AM in the winter, so a two-hour delay still wouldn't give time for roads to be cleared or conditions to improve very much. Delaying beyond two hours means most of the educational benefit of the day is lost, so putting student safety at risk isn't worth it.
We know that snow days and other unplanned interruptions to the year are tough on families. They are tough on teachers and staff, too, as rescheduling carefully planned activities is not fun and often not possible. However, student safety always comes first!