Porter Township Schools: Winters in Northwest Indiana

porter-township-schools-logoWinter has arrived in Northwest Indiana! As we all know, that comes with snow, blowing and drifting snow, snow-packed roads, ice, wind, cold temperatures, and cold wind chills. As part of this, we all throw on many layers, cover exposed skin, keep blankets and shovels in the car, drive slowly, and most of all look forward to the warmer temperatures that will arrive in just a few months.

Here are some things to know about winters at PTSC that hopefully you will find helpful:

Please make sure your child comes dressed appropriately (warm enough clothing) for school each day. Even if it is too cold for recess, one can never plan when an emergency might take place and a school has to be evacuated or a school bus breaks down. Wearing shorts and a t-shirt is going to be challenging--even if the evacuation takes less than a minute.
Don't know if there will be recess? Send the snow pants, hats, gloves, boots, coats, and scarves just in case (and all labeled with your child's name).
Want to make sure you receive delay/closing calls? Make sure your information is up to date in Instant Alert. See directions below in the "Things to Do and Know" section. If you have done that and still do not receive a call, please contact your school office.
PTSC works with the Meteorology Department at Valparaiso University to get weather reports the night before school and the morning of school. This information is utilized in addition to weather.com, weather bug, weather underground, and other weather websites that report Boone Grove data. It does seem that often times there will be a wide range of expected weather predictions depending on which website is consulted. This is also why it is good to have access to the VU Department of Meteorology to help us sort through the data. On top of that, the superintendents in the area are in constant communication sharing the information they have learned.
Do you wonder how snow delays and closing decisions are made? There is no formula for this. Typically I talk to my parking lot plow crew between 4-4:30 am to get my first look at conditions. Sometimes they tell me not to go out on the roads, that we need a delay. Most of the time I set out driving the roads myself. I'm considering bus traffic, how much the county has already plowed, blowing and drifting, ice, and snow that continues to fall. *It is important to note that I expect roads in NWI to be snow-packed and slippery--this is just part of where we live. I'm looking for roads with large drifts that a car or bus could not drive through safely covering the entire road. If there is a delay, I am then back out on the roads driving to see if conditions have improved so that we can open school. I usually go back first to the areas that were particularly bad on my drive earlier in the morning.
Do you wonder how wind chill delays and closing decisions are made? There is also no formula for this. It is a combination of many things. How hard is the wind blowing? How cold is the air temperature? What are the expected wind chills? Are my buses starting and staying running? Additionally we have to look to see if the cold will break making a two-hour delay effective. It is not a black and white decision--there are many factors which play into every decision. A change in just a handful of degrees can be the difference between a regular day of school and a closing.
I try to make a call for a delay or closing by 5:30 am. Our buses are already warming at that time. Our first routes will start soon after that. While it is nice to know the night before, that is not always the best decision. If I think there is a chance that we will be able to open on time or not have to close school I will always wait. My goal is to keep students safe, but also to keep students on the regular school calendar with school in session if at all possible. That will mean many times that the decision must be made in the morning.

All PTSC buildings have been hard at work developing plans to enable us to have Virtual Inclement Weather Days. We have been approved by the state to offer these moving forward. You will be getting a letter today from your child's school talking about what this will look like in each building. We believe that we live in a day and age where weather should not cause an interruption in our instruction. Providing virtual instruction will allow students to continue to receive the instruction they need--just through a different medium. This is similar to what we already do 7 times per year at BGHS and BGMS.

Many districts have already been doing this both this year and last year. If you'd like to read about some of those experiences, you can find them here:

Chalmers, Indiana

Indiana Department of Education Blog

Delphi eLearning Days

Shelby County

#eLearnOrFreeze on Twitter from Southern Hancock

#welearnmg on Twitter from Madison-Grant

Hancock County

Lots of creative thinking in Indiana to solve the problem of our winter weather. Other states across the country are doing this as well--I just wanted to highlight Indiana! Check your child's backpack tonight for more information!