Date: October 29, 2020
TO: Watertown Families
From: Dr. John Ramos, Interim Superintendent of Schools
Subject: 2020-21 Snow Letter
With winter weather on the horizon, I wanted to take a moment to remind you of the District’s procedures regarding school closings, delays, and early dismissals. Please read and save this letter for future reference.
The decision to change school schedules is made after careful review of information collected from the local Police, Highway, School Maintenance Departments, and a local weather service. Road conditions, sidewalk status, precipitation, temperatures and forecasts are considered when making a determination to delay or close schools. In making a decision about weather-related schedule changes, our top priority is to ensure our students and staff are safe.
When it is determined that conditions are unsafe for students and staff, we have three options: two-hour delay, three-hour delay and closing. In some circumstances, a delay may be upgraded to a school closing if unsafe weather conditions persist. Decisions are typically made by 5:15 am in order for proper notification to the bus company and staff; therefore, you will typically receive notification from my office (and media) by 5:30 am. When we are able to, we will make the decision in advance (the prior evening, for example); however, with the uncertainty of weather forecasts, and the additional factors we must account for – building readiness, bussing, etc. – it is simply not always the right decision to make a call-in advance. Likewise, while the towns on our borders may sometimes make different decisions, we are making a decision based upon the information we have regarding the roads, the buildings, the busses, and even the forecast specific to Oakville and Watertown.
Watertown Public Schools utilizes several tools to communicate information regarding weather-related closings or delays.
- Phone - After the decision to delay or close school is made, the district sends a call to students’ home numbers and parents’ cell phone numbers. The district also sends a call to all staff. If there is an emergency and school must be dismissed early, the district sends an emergency call to all contact numbers associated with each student and to all staff. (If you are not receiving calls or would like to stop receiving calls, contact your child’s school via phone or email Jeff Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Email - After the decision to delay or close school is made, the district sends an email to all students and staff.
- SMS & Push Notifications - After the decision to delay or close school is made, the district sends a text message and push notification to anyone who has downloaded Watertown Public Schools’ mobile app. This app helps students, parents, and community members know what is happening on campus, right from their phones. On the app, you can find cafeteria menus, contact information for staff, and event information. You can download the app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play (search for Watertown Public Schools - CT). After downloading the app, be sure to go into the settings menu to turn on notifications.
- Other - After the decision to delay or close school is made, the district notifies local television stations, shares information on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), and updates the district website (www.watertownps.org).
Types of Schedule Changes
- Two-Hour Delay - Buses will arrive at stops approximately two (2) hours later than the usual time. Students should not be dropped off at school at their usual time. Please note that staff members are only available to supervise children twenty (20) minutes before a delayed school opening. Breakfast and lunch are served at all schools. If your child attends Pre-K, please reference Ms. Meka’s “Snow Letter” from JTPS to determine arrival/departure times.
- Three-Hour Delay - Buses will arrive at stops approximately three (3) hours later than the usual time. Students should not be dropped off at school at their usual time. Please note that staff members are only available to supervise children twenty (20) minutes before a delayed school opening. Breakfast is only served at Watertown High School and lunch is served at all schools. AM Pre-School is canceled when there is a three-hour delay.
- Early Dismissal - Information about emergency early dismissals is shared via phone, email, SMS, push notifications and local television stations prior to 11:00 am. Watertown High School is usually released at approximately 12:00 noon. (Please note that unusual circumstances may dictate an early dismissal before 12:00 noon.) PM Pre-School is canceled when there is an early dismissal. When there is an early dismissal, all after school sporting events and student activities will be canceled.
- Emergency Dismissal - When we need to communicate a closure (early/emergency dismissal) and schools are already in session, we utilize our communication platform method, which calls ALL phone numbers listed in your child’s PowerSchool records. Please take a moment to, again, log into your account, or, contact your child’s school, and check the contact numbers listed in both the “Home” field and all others. An announcement will be made on local television stations, and also through Thrillshare generally prior to 11:00 a.m. Please consult the individual schools for emergency dismissals times.
When weather is a concern, our goal is to make sure our families are kept up to date with timely and accurate information. Please be sure you monitor weather related delays, closings, and early dismissals and to cooperate with school personnel as we work to ensure the safety of our students and staff. Although your child’s safety is important to us, we respect your decision to keep your child at home if you feel conditions are unsafe.