Report on storm days in N.S. will help school boards update closure policies

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - Nova Scotia school boards are doing a good job in deciding when to shut schools due to bad weather, but the author of a report on storm day closures says there is room for improvement.
Jim Gunn, who was a superintendent in the Annapolis Valley for 15 years, said Wednesday he has little beef with how administrators decide to close schools when the weather turns bad - a decision generally made in the wee hours in consultation with meteorologists and those watching the roads.
"I think boards are doing well overall, especially with regards to safety," said Gunn.
He was commissioned by the Education Department to review storm closures, particularly after last year when schools were shut anywhere from 71/2 to 12 days because of bad weather.
"But after the decision is made to cancel the buses, what else can happen during the day? Are there other options?"
Some of the examples he cites include: starting school an hour or two later once roads are clear; keeping schools open where it's safe for children to walk to school even if buses are cancelled; considering the possibility of keeping high schools open even if schools for lower grades are closed; and preparing "learning packages" to send home with students when storm days add up.
Perhaps one of the more potentially contentious recommendations is that teachers use snow days for "professional collaboration time."
Under their collective agreement, teachers are not required to be at school if schools are closed.
"It should be discussed with the teachers and the teachers union," he said.
Gunn said school administrators also need to talk to parents about alternate ideas.
"I emphasize the need to discuss it with families because they're the ones affected," he said. "Decisions like this throw off your babysitting schedule and plans for the day so they've got to be involved."

Organizations: Nova Scotia school, Education Department

Geographic location: Annapolis Valley

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