MISD Plans to Monitor Weather Conditions and School Impacts
When snow, inclement weather, or poor air quality is in the forecast, we have a plan in place to assess and monitor weather and road conditions overnight, in the early morning hours, and during the school day.
For overnight issues our goal is to make information available to families about school closures or changes in school operations by 6:00am, but this can be delayed due to changing conditions.
Winter weather may bring road and driving conditions that cause changes in school operations such as delayed opening, early dismissal, or closure. The District takes into consideration the conditions on Mercer Island but also in surrounding areas where staff make their commute. The Superintendent, Director of Transportation, Director of Operations and Maintenance, and other administrators collaborate in the days leading up to a weather event to make sound and safe decisions during the weather event.
The second link in the snow tab below shows how we communicate with families and the community about closures and delays due to winter weather.
- How do we decide to delay or cancel school?
- How do we notify families of school closures or delay?
- Why doesn’t MISD just move to online or remote learning rather than canceling school?
- What does a school closure mean?
- What does a two-hour delay mean?
- What does limited bus transportation mean?
- What does no transportation mean?
- Tips for Families
- In spite of Doppler radar and other advances in weather forecasting, it is sometimes difficult to be exact about how inclement weather will impact road conditions on Mercer Island.
- The Superintendent monitors the weather overnight.
- At 3:30am Maintenance, Operations, and Transportation (MOT) staff drive the roads on Mercer Island to begin assessing driving conditions. MOT is in regular contact and consultation with the Mercer Island Police Department and the City of Mercer Island Maintenance Department who are both monitoring road conditions on Mercer Island during inclement weather.
- Maintenance staff check for possible utility failures due to winter weather that may impact a school or neighborhood.
- The Superintendent makes all decisions to change school operating schedules based on the weather impact on schools and road and driving conditions.
- As a parent, you may decide to keep your child or children at home if you feel it’s not safe to make the trip to school. You are in the best position to decide about the conditions in your neighborhood and make the appropriate judgment on road conditions and driving capabilities.
- While we go to extensive measures to determine if roads on Mercer Island are safe for travel, it’s physically impossible for us to be on every street corner and side street at all times. We rely on you to be the final judge when it comes to the safety of your child.
How do we notify families of school closures or delay?
- School Messenger Email
- School Messenger Text. Families can opt-in to receive text notifications from our School Messenger system about school closures. Receiving text notifications is a two-step process. First, you need to log-in to your Skyward account, select "Menu -> Family -> Skylert Information" and verify your cell phone number is listed correctly in the "Text Contacts" tab. This "Skylert" instruction sheet (PDF) shows you how to to confirm your cell phone number is correct in the "Text Contacts" tab. If there are no phone numbers listed in the "Text Contacts" tab then you will need to input them. If you are using the Skyward mobile app to update phone numbers you will need to make sure you are using the most recent version of the Skyward app. We transitioned to Skyward's Qmlativ platform this summer and the app has been updated with this transition. You have the updated app if you see the "Skylert" tile icon that is shown on the linked instruction sheet. If you do not have the most recent version of the Skyward app you can delete the old app from your device and download the new app by searching for "Skyward" in your app store. The second step of the process is opting in to receive texts. Once you have verified your number in Skyward you need to text “Y” to 67587 to enable text notifications from School Messenger, as these instructions show (PDF).
- FlashAlert email and mobile app push notifications. FlashAlert is the platform School Districts use to communicate school information to local TV and radio stations. You can sign up to receive a FlashAlert email. You can also download the FlashAlert mobile app on iOS or Android and enable the app to send you push notifications on school closures.
- The MISD website and all school websites will show information via pop-up message on the home page.
- District social media platforms | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn
- Radio and TV stations broadcast information regarding the operation of school during emergency conditions, including inclement weather.
Weather events often emerge without adequate time to prepare the students, staff, and families to flip to remote learning. Even when winter weather is in the forecast, the timing of the storm and impact in the region is impossible to accurately predict outside of 24 hours. Whereas high school or certain classes might be more easily shifted online, decisions must be made as an entire district. Here are some variables that impede rapid shifts to remote learning:
- Our younger students in elementary do not have assigned iPads they take home.
- Weather events often come with power outages.
- Some students will need to provide care for younger siblings during the day.
- OSPI has made it clear that to count an online day as one of the 180 school days, districts must meet a very high threshold as measured by student participation and synchronous instructional
- Staff live across the region and their access to internet/power may be limited or they may have family needs based on their home school district that making teaching difficult; and
- Sometimes students just want a snow day!
- All schools will be closed for that day only.
- No “out-of-district” transportation. Students attending “out-of-district” classes will not receive transportation, even if the hosting district is in session.
- All scheduled afterschool and evening activities, athletics and extra-curricular events are cancelled. This includes all practices, mandatory or volunteer, any contests, games, matches, meets, events, facility rentals, etc.
- The District Administration Building will be closed, unless otherwise announced.
- The District may chose to delay school two hours and the decision is based on how quickly we can work to open schools.
- All schools will begin two hours later than normal.
- Bus pick-up schedules will also be two hours later than normal.
- Buses will use regularly scheduled stops unless the message specifies limited bus transportation.
- All BEFORE-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES, athletics and extracurricular events are canceled. Each individual school will determine if AFTER-SCHOOL activities, athletics, or extra-curricular activities will be canceled.
- School will dismiss at the normal time.
There will also be:
- NO out of district transportation.
- Other school events or activities could be cancelled.
- All or part of some bus routes will operate on a modified route due to road conditions.
- Limited Bus Transportation routes may be used on the morning and afternoon bus runs.
- If the weather and road conditions improve, regular bus stops may be used in the afternoon.
- Families will be notified via School Messenger of the change prior to dismissal time.
- Remember, some areas of Mercer Island experience more severe driving conditions than others.
- School closures and schedule changes are District wide, even if your neighborhood is not severely impacted.
- Changes to school operations apply for that day only.
- If no announcement is made by Mercer Island School District during inclement weather, schools and buses are operating normally.
- If conditions change rapidly or unexpectedly, we may need to make a quick decision to cancel school or send students home early.
- Continue to look for updated announcements throughout the day. The district may also cancel after school activities, athletics and extra-curricular events due to inclement weather on 2-hour late start days.
- Be sure your student is dressed in warm clothing (coat, gloves, hat, and boots).
Air Quality Monitoring for School-Related Outdoor Activities
Student and staff safety are our top priority as we remain diligent in ensuring safe environments for all of our staff and students. With the recent air quality issues the past few years due to wildfire smoke, the District wanted to provide background and resources to clarify how decisions are made related to outdoor activities for our staff and students.
While it is highly unlikely the District would cancel classes or school for air quality, decisions about outdoor recess, outdoor activities are guided by the Department of Health (DOH) air quality index (AQI) levels and guidance. Recently, the DOH made a change that impacts outdoor activities. The interventions we will put into place range from merely monitoring conditions to canceling events. Here are examples of this spectrum:
- Extra curricular and co-curricular activities and competition events will be evaluated once the local AQI exceeds 100 based on intensity and duration.
- Adjustments to Elementary recess will be made when the AQI reaches 101-150
- All outdoor activities will be canceled when the AQI exceeds 151.
Conditions can change quickly. Our schools have the authority to keep students inside if they feel it is necessary. If there is a program change at our schools, parents and school partners will be notified by the District or directly from the building. You can check the current and forecasted air quality status online using the following links (remember, different agencies will likely report variations because of when and where they gather their data).
Please note, for off-island events the zip code used needs to be the location of the event. Sometimes decisions about whether to cancel an event or not are up to the host school or sponsor. MISD will also monitor hosting site air quality and do what we believe is in the best interest of our students and staff.
District Decision Making Process & Timeline
The Superintendent, Director of Maintenance and Operations, Director of Transportation, Athletics Director, and site administrators collaborate to make safe and sound decisions during all weather events. Decisions to make adjustments to the daily schedule will start as early as possible given current information and forecasts. The impact of wildfire smoke can change quickly and without notice. Student and staff safety are always at the forefront of our thinking and decisions are made with an abundance of precaution.
Efforts in Place to Sustain Strong Indoor Air Quality in our Buildings
- We set the outside air damper settings on our HVAC systems to 20%. This significantly reduces the amount of outside air being drawn into the building while still providing a minimum of outside air to sustain health and safety measures.
- If air quality reaches unhealthy levels Maintenance and Operations staff close the outside air dampers and increase fan speeds to keep air circulating at high levels. All HVAC equipment use MERV 13 air filters, MERV 13 filters offer the highest filtration rate usable without restricting the airflow delivered to our buildings.
- Masks will be available for students or staff experiencing adverse symptoms due to the outdoor air quality.