Olympia has a unique set of challenges when it comes to winter weather. Lots of factors go into making decisions regarding early out, late starts, and cancellations. Some of those factors include current and future temperatures; current and future winds; current and future road status; current and future visibility; current and future power outages; current and future weather patterns; current and future ability for buses to run; current and future condition of pathways in which students travel, and timing of when the event occurs. All of these things are considered for the safety of our students. Constant communication takes place daily during winter months with area School Superintendents, administrators, maintenance, transportation, and those that keep our roads and towns accessible for student travel. In addition to the factors above, two additional resources are considered when determining whether or not it is safe to have school , A) the National Weather Services Wind Chill Chart and B) the National Weather Services Alert System.
In regards to the Wind Chill Chart that is linked above, Olympia will generally operate school in the light blue territory if none of the other factors above cause a change in schedule. However, if the winds pick up or temperature drops beyond the light blue, Olympia will have a change in our student's daily schedule. In regards to the National Weather System alert system, Olympia pays very close attention to Advisories and Watches, but if all other factors do not cause a change in schedule, a Watch or Advisory will not dictate a change in student attendance schedule. However, if the National Weather Service issues a Warning, that will definitely cause a change in the student attendance schedule.
Although area School Superintendents communicate regarding weather, each school district has unique challenges which may force them to alter a student attendance schedule when another district doesn't. Also, because of weather patterns and the size of our District, there are times when weather is different in one area of the District than the other. You will also see times where Bloomington District 87 or Normal Unit 5 (to our East) is out of school, when Morton, Pekin, and Tremont (to our West) is in school, or Lincoln to our South is in school.
If Olympia has a change in schedule, a School Messenger Message is sent to you between 5:30 am and 6:00 am. The message needs to be sent at this time because drivers are starting to prepare their buses to pick students up for school. It also needs to occur this early so parents can make arrangements due to a change in schedule. Weather in Illinois can change rapidly, therefore, it is highly unlikely for Olympia to make a weather related decision the night before. If there is a major blizzard headed our way, then you might receive the message the day before. Otherwise, expect the morning notification.
Although you may agree or disagree with the decision, I can assure you that there is a large amount of time and effort spent in driving roads, tracking weather, and discussing next steps, so that the best decision possible can be made. After gathering as much information as I can, the decision on whether to have school is made by me, the Superintendent. It is the hardest part of the job, one that I accept, and take very seriously.
Looking ahead to next week, there are predictions of the Wind Chills dipping beyond the light blue of the Wind Chill chart. There is a possibility that we will not have school on those days. Olympia is joining a few other Districts in piloting an Alternative Learning Day (outlined HERE). If I call in the morning to cancel school, and ask students to complete their Snow Packets (hard copies for Elementary Kids/electronic for Middle High Kids), then students can complete work at home that day and it can count as a School Day, thus, not having to make that day up at the end of the calendar. Having an Alternative Learning Day is a real possibility next week. Teachers shared information with students this week and the attached letter was sent to parents in their weekly updates. If you have questions, please contact your building principal.