What are the protocols for a snow day? La Crosse area school leaders offer insight

(WKBT) – Many local school districts released students early Friday because of the snowstorm in our area.

Others cancelled classes altogether.

West Salem school buses departed the elementary school early as a precaution for heavy snow.

While today did not count as a full snow day for most, schools spend a lot of time preparing for one.

“Closing school is not something any superintendent or any school leader looks forward to doing,” Westby Area School District superintendent Steve Michaels said.

“There’s a handful of things that come into making that decision,” West Salem School District superintendent Ryan Rieber said.

Many schools have “built-in” snow days on their calendars.

Rieber says his district has two.

But if there are more, students and staff have to make them up during scheduled breaks.

“It depends on district-by-district,” Rieber said.

The Westby Area School District has three built-in snow days.

Michaels says that’s partly because the district is more rural, and plow drivers have more roads to cover.

“And so, if you’re way out in the sticks, it’s difficult for the roads to get cleared in time,” Michaels said.

School leaders spend a day or two in advance discussing the possibility of a snow day.

Ideally, Rieber says he’d like to make a final decision about having school before the buses go on the roads.

“We start to release our buses at 6 o’clock in the morning if not before, and we need to make sure those road conditions are fine,” Rieber said.

But if there is a snow day, Rieber says West Salem kids will not learn online.

“We would stick to the traditional snow day, just because of how much we value that face-to-face instruction,” Rieber said.

Westby will switch to virtual learning if it exceeds three snow days.

“There are districts in the state who have gone to no built-in snow days and just using virtual or flexible days whenever there’s a closure,” Michaels said.

It takes a lot of communication if a snow day happens.

“It sounds like it can be a tricky decision sometimes, though?,” reporter Tyler Job asked.

“Very much so,” Michaels said.

And while the goal is to have school every day, safety for kids and parents is the top priority.

“The worst thing that can happen is for there to be an accident or something like that,” Rieber said.

Schools can cancel classes several days in advance if there is dangerously cold weather in the forecast.