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                              Communication Strategies
September 2015

Dear Parents/Guardians,
It is essential for Westerly Public Schools’ administration to communicate with families in emergency situations. Westerly Public Schools uses the following means to communicate with families to deliver timely information as quickly as possible:
  1. Automatic phone message: Please be sure to inform your child’s school of any phone number updates.
  2. Rhode Island Broadcasters Association:
    The district uses this service to inform all radio and television stations about important district matters. Sign up for email and text messages. Please register by
    clicking here. It is important that you check off your child's individual school AND Westerly Public Schools. By checking off both your child's school and Westerly Public Schools, your email/phone number will be in two different email banks allowing better communication with the appropriate intended audience.
  3. Twitter: Please follow us at @wps8
  4. Visit the district website:  http://westerly.k12.ri.us
  5. Click here for the 2016-17 Early Dismissal/Delayed Opening Schedule.
Thank you.
Roy M. Seitsinger, Jr.
Roy M. Seitsinger, Jr., Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
                                                  What Happens at My House on a Snow Day
At my house the talk of snow usually starts several days before the storm arrives as the weather media builds both awareness and anxiety across the state. The conversation is heightened the day before the storm is predicted to hit the area and then the conference calls begin. The weather professionals almost always fret about the unique weather patterns of Rhode Island, talking about three specific bands of weather, the northwestern part of the state, the middle part of the state and the city, and of course, the southern ocean side.
Early in the morning local superintendents talk among themselves and with their own support personnel and local town officials. Yes, we assess weather conditions, but we also have to consider the timing of the storm (a storm predicted to start after school buses roll at 6 AM can be very challenging), the available personnel and equipment, the rate of snow fall (anything over 2” an hour makes it very difficult for the plows to keep up), our shared programming needs (e.g. We send students north to Providence, and east to CHARIHO and South Kingstown among others. As many as 20 buses leave the district each day). In Westerly, we also discuss conditions with facilities staff, DPW and often local police. We need to consider the state roads, local primary roads and the back roads, their current conditions and the potential for clearing, icing, flooding, etc. We need to review student and staff activities, when people start to travel in the morning, when the first buses must leave the garage to pick up students.
All of these considerations go into making THE decision to call school off, to delay (and for how long) or have school run as a regularly scheduled day. Some have asked; why not call off school the day before? We all know the unpredictable nature of our weather. There are actually several reasons that school is cancelled in the early morning rather than the day before. You will note that all of the southern Rhode Island school districts usually do not call for cancelation and/or delay in school until the early morning. This is because (1) we share students through different programs and transportation arrangements, the superintendents all talk and coordinate with each other because of the shared programs and transportation, and (2) southern Rhode Island typically has a slightly different weather pattern than the rest of the state because of the ocean.
So, sometime between 4:00 and 4:30 AM I pop out of bed to begin the routine of checking on key personnel and web based information sources. All the above factors are weighed against multiple phone call input, conversations with personnel on the roads, predicted weather, the timing of storms and the overall safety of students and buses as well as the requirement for 182 days of education and planned student activities. Our number one concern always is the health and safety of all of our students. Our often bracing New England weather is challenging to predict but for many diehard New Englanders, the seasonal changes are part of what we love about the region. Thus the call is made and at my house the snow day begins.
A further note, what about early dismissal? This is often the most difficult call to make. The rule
is to try to avoid early dismissal. When considering safety and security of students we must
think of older student getting home first (but worry about seniors that might be driving in poor
weather). We must also think of children that will be unsupervised because their parents and
caregivers are at work. Many times schools might be able to move students home but workers
have not been released or they are having difficulty travelling and will not make it home for
their children. Additionally, timing matters. We know that students are safe at school. We know
that buses are the safest vehicles on the road. What is difficult is the timing of a storm. Often it
is better to let the storm happen, especially if it is a mid-day event, and then release the
students, keeping to as regular a schedule as possible. The best practice is to maintain as
routine and as predictable a schedule as possible.
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