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Multiple considerations factor into HISD’s response to weather

2014 January 23
by HISD Communications

As I write this blog entry, we at HISD have our eyes to the skies, so to speak. Actually, a team is poring over information from the National Weather Service, local offices of emergency management, and the Texas Department of Transportation—among a number of agencies—to make the most sage decision possible about the first real winter weather that’s approaching and whether we should close schools Friday.

By the time you read this, their decision might be evident. We’re using all our latest web tools, including @HoustonISD on Twitter, as well as our tried-and-true weather hotline at 713-267-1704 to give you up-to-the-date information, so you can make your own plans.

My real purpose here is to let you know what a tough decision weather closings are and how seriously we take them at HISD.

Back when nearly all schools were neighborhood schools and there was almost always a parent or grandparent at home, such matters were easier.  We could call off school on an icy mid-morning, and a student could walk home to a waiting cup of hot chocolate. Now HISD is both a mecca for school choice, with youngsters frequently traversing Houston, and an open-enrollment district, which means we attract students from outside our wide boundaries.

That means thousands of buses on the highways, and thousands more parents – frequently working parents with their own complicated schedules – transporting youngsters. We have nearly 28,000 employees, too, who venture from all over to perform their jobs. Forecasts of flooding or ice have to be taken very seriously to keep everyone safe.

Having worked in several regions of the U.S., I can tell you that each location has its own set of potential emergencies to manage. In San Diego, for instance, we didn’t worry too much about weather – which was usually dry and balmy – but we were ready with earthquake preparedness plans. In Houston, we have a lot to plan for – tropical weather that includes winds (which can mean widespread and lengthy power outages) and flooding, extreme heat that can tax our air conditioning systems and make afterschool sports dangerous, and arctic blasts, such as the one we’re facing, that can tax our heating systems and spread a layer of ice on our roadways.

I want to make sure you know that we’re ready for them all, with the safety of our students and their families, and our family of employees the number one priority. We’re grateful to the corps of “essential personnel,” such as police and facility managers, who work no matter the conditions.

Our communications team monitors HISD’s social media, and every time there’s the smallest weather blip – freezing temperatures, a heavy downpour – they notice how many students take to cyberspace to insist that we close schools. It’s too cold/too hot/too wet, they insist.

That brings me to a final reminder. If we miss a day of class and work Friday, that day will be made up – during either the day designated as our Spring Holiday (April 18) or Memorial Day (May 26) when likely the weather will be much nicer and you would much rather be outside enjoying it. Be careful what you wish for…

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