Think it's easy deciding what Mother Nature has in store on any given winter day? Think again!Careful consideration is given to a host of factors when a decision is made to either open on a delayed schedule or close school. While most of us remain tucked in bed asleep, perhaps dreaming of what the news will be when the alarm goes off at 6 or 7 a.m., the Transportation Director Jeff Popp's workday is well underway.Mr. Popp sets his alarms (that's right, plural!) for 3:30 a.m. every morning during the winter season so that he can check weather and road conditions. In the event of bad weather, he leaves his house shortly after 3:30 am and begins driving a specific subset of the roads in Dutchess and Columbia counties that are on the district's transportation routes. He arrives at the transportation office by 4:30 a.m. and begins his phone calls to town highway supervisors to gather information from them and their crews on road status, and their timelines on plowing and sanding. He then consults with his colleagues in neighboring school districts for their statuses and circumstances.After a final check with the National Weather Service and AccuWeather for its predictions on the storm's path, duration and intensity, Mr. Popp calls the Superintendent of Schools no later than 5 a.m. for a decision to close or delay the opening of schools based on the information Mr. Popp has gathered.
Once made, the decision is broadcast to the community using the district's website, Twitter feed, www.cancellations.com, and a long list of local radio and TV stations. Text and email messages only (no phone calls at 5 a.m.!) are sent out to all parents/guardians who have provided us with cell phones and/or email addresses using our SchoolMessenger notification system. The main greeting on the district's phone system is also changed from the usual "Welcome to Red Hook..." to a delay or closing message recorded by Mr. Popp that pre-empts the usual greeting.On a normal day, the first bus leaves the transportation office to begin its route at approximately 6:30 a.m. If a delayed opening is in effect, the Transportation Director rechecks roads at 6:30 a.m., repeats his contacts with town highway superintendents, colleagues and the weather services, and confers a second time with the Superintendent of Schools. A final determination is made by approximately 8 a.m. to proceed with the delay or change to a closing for the day.