Administrative Procedure 178: Inclement/Severe Weather

Legal References: Education Act

Section 265 (1) (j) Duties of Principal: Care of Pupils; Child and Family Services Act

Related References:

1. School Operations During Inclement Weather

1.1 The following administrative procedure governs school operations during inclement weather and details the expectations of the principal, bus operators, staff and students.
1.2 This procedure is to be followed by principals, all school and other work site staff when there is a necessity to close schools to students or cancel buses because of inclement weather.
1.3 Closure of the school for staff is a separate decision that takes place in consultation with the Regional Superintendent.

2. Overall Expectations for Inclement Weather

2.1 This procedure is based on the following premises:

a) The safety and well-being of students and staff are paramount;
b) The decisions for emergency closure and delay/early leaving will be made as early as possible and communicated to the public in accordance with the above procedure;
c) Subject to weather conditions, every effort will be made to keep schools open to serve students and staff who can reach the schools safely;
d) The district experiences a diversity of weather conditions which vary significantly from location to location, and so local decisions are needed;
e) Under most circumstances, if students arrive safely at the start of the day, they will remain until regular dismissal time; and
f) Bus delays due to weather will generally be for two (2) hours.

2.2 Factors for consideration in closing a school, cancelling/delaying buses or deciding that students should depart early due to inclement weather include:

a) The weather conditions, i.e. wind chill factor, wind speed, snow accumulation, temperature, ice, fog, and tornados.
b) The number of staff members available to provide adequate supervision and care for students to ensure supervision;
c) The level of deterioration from normal conditions of highways, streets and city or town walkways.

2.3 The following additional factors must be addressed before dismissing students early:

a) Parents/guardians, road maintenance crews, bus operators, bus drivers, and the general public are often “caught off guard” when students return early and are not prepared or available;

b) Weather history in our district indicates that winds and storms are often more calm at the end of the afternoon (regular dismissal time), so it is presumed to be safer for students and staff to remain at school until regular dismissal time;

c) Parents/guardians are able to be alerted and informed that their children are being sent home early. Approximately 2 hours (depending on school size) should be allowed for the ability to notify bus drivers and parents/guardians.

d) When students are dismissed other than at the regular dismissal time, the principal must be assured that each student has appropriate care upon arriving at home or at another prearranged destination. Only when the principal is satisfied that the welfare of students concerned has been assured, should they be dismissed. It is necessary to ensure adherence to the provision of the Child and Family Services Act S.O. 1984, Section 79, Subsection 3: “No person having charge of a child less than sixteen years of age shall leave the child without making provision for their supervision and care that is reasonable in the circumstances.”

3. Procedures

3.1 Decision to Cancel Buses or Close Schools Due to Weather

3.1.1 Decisions regarding bus operations are made by bus operators.
3.1.2 A decision to cancel buses does not mean a school is closed to staff.
3.1.3 Decisions regarding emergency school closure are made by principals in consultation with the Regional Superintendent.
3.1.4 Decisions regarding early dismissal are made by principals in consultation with the Regional Superintendent.

3.2 Process for Cancellations or Delays of Buses

3.2.1 The Huron Perth Student Transportation Services (HPSTS) will establish the process to coordinate both the action and communication resulting from bus
cancellations or delays. This process will be reviewed annually and shared with principals.

3.2.2 HPSTS will use the Delays module of the Bus Planner software to communicate bus delays and cancellations. Bus operators will post all notices directly to the Bus Planner Delays App and to the HPSTS website.

3.2.3 Principals will monitor cancellation and delay notices for their school using either the App or the HPSTS website. Principals can also post cancellation and
delay notices to the school based social media accounts and broadcast through other means of direct messaging (email, messenger).

3.2.4 Principals should advise parents/guardians to monitor the App and the HPSTS website.

3.2.5 Media will be directed to the App or the HPSTS website to receive notices of cancellations or delays.

3.3 Process for Early Departure of Buses

3.3.1 Following the expectations outlined in Section 2.3 above, principals must communicate the reason early departure is under consideration and make the
decision jointly with the Regional Superintendent.

3.3.2 Once the decision is made, the principal must advise HPSTS and the bus operator, who will post the notice on the Bus Planner Delays App and the
HPSTS website.

3.3.3 Principals should communicate the early departure via the school based social media accounts and broadcast through other means of direct messaging (email, messenger).

3.3.4 The principal must be assured that each student has appropriate care upon arriving at home or at another prearranged destination before dismissal is

3.4 Process for Emergency School Closure

3.4.1 The principal, based on bus cancellations, weather services, and other appropriate sources, in consultation with the Regional Superintendent, may decide to close the school.

3.4.2 Principals will post individual school closure notices directly through the Bus Planner Delays Module which will then update the App and the HPSTS website.

3.4.3 Principals will communicate the school closure via the school based social media accounts and broadcast through other means of direct messaging (email, messenger).

3.4.4 System wide school closure notices will be posted by HPSTS, after consultation with the Director and Superintendent(s).

3.5 Tornados and Severe Weather Alerts

3.5.1 Environment Canada estimates that our district experiences one or two tornados each year. Tornados are most likely to occur during the afternoon of a
very hot, hazy and humid day. They are generally preceded by very large cumulonimbus clouds, lightning, rain and hail.

3.5.2 Environment Canada issues three types of alerts

1. A WEATHER WATCH, which signifies conditions are right for the formation of severe thunderstorms and/or tornados.
2. A SEVERE WEATHER WARNING, when severe thunderstorms have been sighted on radar.
3. A TORNADO WARNING, when tornados have actually been sighted.

3.5.3 Environment Canada can generally provide adequate lead-time for Alerts 1 and 2; however, there is virtually no lead-time for Alert 3.

3.6 Process for Tornados and Severe Weather Alerts

3.6.1 Administrative Procedure 170: School Emergency Procedures should be followed when responding to a Tornado or Severe Weather Alert.
3.6.2 The below instructions should be followed with Alert 1 – Weather Watch.
            • The school is alerted of the potential of severe thunderstorms and/or tornadoes.
            • Classes taking place outside are to come into the school to a predetermined area.
            • The administration/office will monitor the situation on radio.
            • Class activities and school routines continue as usual.
            • Teachers take attendance and inform office of missing students.

3.6.3 The below instructions should be followed with Alert 2 – Severe Weather Warning and Alert 3 – Tornado Watch. The Shelter-in-Place procedures are to
be put into effect.
            • Principal or delegate will make the Shelter-in-Place announcement.
            • Staff will check that designated areas are empty.
            • Classroom teachers will lead students to a pre-determined safe location in school.
            • If time permits, windows should be closed and doors closed on exit from rooms.
            • Students and staff assume crouch position in safe location.
            • Remain in position until all clear is announced.

3.6.4 If a TORNADO WARNING is issued prior to the bus departure time, buses will not run. Busing will resume when the Tornado Warning is cancelled. If a
tornado is sighted on route, bus drivers will:

1. Stop the bus.
2. Lead the students off and away from the bus.
3. Have the students get in a ditch or the lowest lying area possible.
4. Have the students lie flat and cover their heads until the emergency passes.

4. Expectations for Staff

4.1 Bus cancellations are made primarily based on road conditions and consideration for travel on back/county roads where students may not be able to be picked up or returned safely. Bus cancellations do not mean that staff should not attempt to report to work.

4.2 All staff members are expected to make a reasonable effort to reach their work site where safe to do so.

4.3 When it is deemed unsafe to reach a worksite, a supervisor shall be notified according to a method that follows the direction of the supervisor. Likewise, principals will develop and communicate to staff a process whereby they verify staff members’ arrival at the school. Staff shall continue to monitor weather and road conditions and assess their ability to attend their workplace.

4.4 In the event that staff members cannot safely reach their worksite, a “weather” entry shall be made in Smart Find Express.

4.5 Days of emergency work site closures are work days and staff members continue to be paid. Staff shall be working from home and available for contact by the supervisor or colleague.

4.6 Staff may work in a school which is closed to students, but can be accessed safely.  Staff may also work at an alternate work site or school which is open to students and to which they can travel safely.

4.7 In all cases, common sense must prevail. Staff members are not expected to take undue risks when travelling to and from school during inclement weather.

Inclement Weather or Other School Disruption - Handy Reference: October 2020

Fog Days
There are 3 different fog scenarios which may occur and result in different busing decisions, as outlined:
Fog with no snow on the ground – 2 hour delay
Fog with snow on the ground and temperatures below zero (i.e. ice fog) – HPSTS discussions with operators; likely 2 hour delay
Fog with snow on the ground and temperatures above zero – outright bus cancellation
  • On days when buses are delayed due to fog, all schools, including rural ones, should be ready to accept students at the school - from bell time on the specific day.
  • If it is subsequently determined that buses are cancelled, all schools, including rural ones, should accept students at the school beginning with bell time. Parents should be made aware that they are responsible for picking up their child at the end of the school day.
  • Staff should travel when it is safe to do so.
  • If a significant number of staff travel a considerable distance to the school, the Principal may need to investigate the possibility of accessing Occasional Teacher staff or closing the building. This decision should be made in consultation with the Regional Superintendent, and could be discussed in advance as a pre-planning exercise.
Snow Days
  • On days when any buses are cancelled, schools will have a plan to keep the school open.
  • If any school administrator is considering school closure, consultation must occur with the Regional Superintendent.
  • System level closure decisions will be made by Senior Staff in concert with HPCDSB and communicated to the system as early as possible.
  • In the event of extreme low temperature (-40C including wind-chill), the decision is made the morning of, regarding a system shutdown in concert with HPCDSB and communicated to the system.
Other Issues:
  • On days when there is no hydro at a school, the Principal should seek information from the applicable hydro utility website/app about the status of the outage and consult with the Regional Superintendent.
  • On days when there is no water, the Principal should communicate with the Custodian and Facilities about a timeline.
  • On days when there is no heat (boiler/HVAC unit down) the Principal should communicate with the Custodian and Facilities about a timeline.
  • If the buses are in transit, then buses will proceed to the school, disembark students and leave until a decision has been made.
  • Typically we have a “two hour guideline or ‘rule of thumb’”, and depending on the status after two hours, a decision will be made in consultation with the Regional Superintendent to proceed with a closure or to remain at school.
  • In the event of a closure, contact will be made with the HPSTS General Manager, bus operator and Principals should enact the school phone tree, ensuring an adult is at home to receive the student. If no one is at home, the student stays at the school until a parent can be contacted. Bus drivers will ensure that an adult is at the bus stop, otherwise student(s) will be returned to the school. This means an Administrator or TIC stays until all students are safely home (bus operators will call to confirm at the end of their routes).
Lockdown in
  • Advice is received centrally from community contacts (i.e. OPP, city/town police) by the Superintendent responsible for Safe Schools and decisions are made and communicated to HPSTS General Manager for coordination with school(s) in question.
  • Factors considered include: - whether buses are in transit and can be redirected to an alternate location - whether it is morning or afternoon runs in question

For additional information, please refer to: Administrative Procedure 589 Transportation
Revised October 2020