As a teacher or school district employee, you are likely familiar with school cancellation procedures. If not though, or you haven’t read them recently, it’s probably time to pull out the policies and procedures manual and find out what the “M.O.” is in the face of a sky-high heat index or bone-rattling wind chill advisory.Weather is dynamic and unpredictable; traits that are at once thrilling and inconvenient. From severe thunderstorms to winter weather advisories, it’s important to stay ahead of the watches and warnings when inclement weather conditions threaten school attendance. Here are some tips and tricks to add to your cancellation communications arsenal.

Relaying the unexpected
Most school districts factor a handful of cancellations into their yearly schedules. Weather-related cancellations are heavily contingent on where you live, and how severely weather affects your schools day-to-day activities. What if you have a real emergency? Would you be ready for one? Specifically, would you be ready to communicate the event to your students, parents, teachers and staff?

School-day cancellations are not emergencies, but preparation for them can also help you streamline your emergency communications plan. In your exploration of advanced communication methods for weather-day cancellations, it’s critical to explore both on- and offline mediums with capabilities that bleed into emergency communication. However, the options you explore will depend on the size of your school or district. For example, if you are part of an urban school district with tens of thousands of students and many more parents and staff to inform, you’ll likely need to budget and plan for more communication channels.

Direct and indirect lines of communication
In addition to the traditional mediums of radio and television announcements, here are a few more ideas to ensure that everyone knows what to expect when the unexpected happens.

  • Plan with your planners. Organize a meeting with the committee responsible for day-to-day and annual scheduling. Revisit the topic and the question of when, on a day of bad weather, the decision should be made.
  • Partner with local agencies. Contact local law enforcement authorities like the city police or county sheriff department so that, when the roads become slick or the unthinkable happens at your school, you’ve got a plan in place to communicate with others to make the best decision for your students.
  • And media outlets. Chances are you’re already in-like-Flynn with local television and radio stations. To ensure that students, parents and staff know where to tune in when the snow starts falling, display the listing of relevant stations on your website, but also on a sizeable banner or table tents to be displayed during school activities that draw the masses.
  • Update your Web presence. Use your amazing school and district-wide websites to communicate urgent news with parents, students and staff alike. But have you integrated social media as well? Facebook® and Twitter® are examples of two very useful communicative platforms that your students (and their parents) most likely frequent already. Connect with them so that they’ll receive the 411 as an automatic update to their newsfeed. If you’re just getting into social media, create a buzz by integrating social media buttons into your website, then use Registration Day to distribute reminder magnets with your school and/or district handles to your staff and students.
  • Use Registration Day to collect contact information. If you plan on utilizing a central messaging system to e-mail and/or text your audience cancellation-related information, set up a computer to collect e-mail addresses and telephone numbers. Draw attention to the computer and the reason parents need to stop by and drop in their information with a tabletop display detailing the Web service you now offer.
  • Have a weather day hotline. Set up a common phone number staff and students can call to find out the latest be it snow, storms or otherwise. Include the number on a post card in an informational packet you send out to students and families before the school year begins. Publish just the hotline on the card or use it to share the whole gamut of resources in your weather/emergency cancellation communications toolbox!

Howsoever you do it, know that you’ve got an array of digital, electronic and traditional mediums through which to communicate your plan of action on a bad-weather day so everyone stays in the know.

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