WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange Superintendent of School Scott Cascone sent the following information regarding emergency closings and delayed openings to the school district community on Nov. 6:
In the case of inclement weather, dangerous road conditions or other issues that could cause a delayed opening, early dismissal or school closing, there are multiple means by which you may obtain updated information.
All families are encouraged to sign up to receive personal notifications via School Messenger. Directions are located under “For Parents” on the district website, www.woboe.org. You will be able to choose voice mail, email, and/or text message on your cell phone, and voicemail on your home phone. Choosing all ensures receipt of messages. Note that this type of notification is categorized as non-emergency.
Also, the notice is posted on the district website; West Orange Public Channel 36, Verizon 45; television stations CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, News 12 NJ and Fios1; and social media, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
The decision is based on weather conditions, road conditions and the ability to transport nearly 5,000 students safely via school bus. Understandably, the district cannot make a decision based on any particular street or location in town but rather what is best for most. On inclement weather days, regardless if it is a regular opening or a delayed opening, it is a reasonable expectation that school buses will be delayed both to and from school.
The administration, like many of you, monitor the weather regularly. Cascone said he remains in communication with other Essex County superintendents when it comes to inclement weather even though each district has their own unique circumstances. Few districts have as many steep hills as West Orange, so travel in West Orange is very different than travel in other school districts in Essex County.
Evaluating weather reports and receiving updates on the condition of the roads, school parking lots and walkways provides the administration with the information needed to close schools, schedule a delayed opening or call for an early dismissal. The safety of students, staff and parents remains the focus of the superintendent’s final decision.
A delayed opening is 90 minutes. Therefore, on a day with a delayed opening, elementary schools run from 10:15 a.m. to 3:23 p.m. with a 45-minute lunch break; middle schools run from 9:40 a.m. to 2:53 p.m. with a 25-minute lunch break; the high school runs from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. with a 54-minute lunch break; and the Betty Maddalena Early Learning Center runs from 10:15 a.m. to 3:23 p.m. with a 45-minute lunch and no morning session.
The main reason for a delayed opening is to provide the township public works and the school district buildings and grounds staff with additional time to clear the roads, parking lots and walkways. It also provides staff more time to drive safely to work in order to receive students. For students who ride a school bus, add 90 minutes to your pickup time.
Early dismissal may occur during the school day. The notification of an early dismissal could include cancelation or postponement of any after-school events. Therefore, on a day with an early dismissal, elementary schools run from 8:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. with a 20-minute lunch break; middle schools run from 8:10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with no lunch; the high school runs from 7:30 a.m. to noon with no lunch; and the BMELC runs from 8:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. with a 20-minute lunch break and no afternoon session.
Early dismissal is implemented the least of all options as Cascone said he recognizes the challenge it creates for parents and guardians to collect their children from school or from the bus stop early. This option is reserved as a last resort when the forecast indicates the roads will be hazardous at the regular dismissal time. If necessary and when possible, every effort is made to send the notification the night before. If your child attends an aftercare program, parents/guardians are to contact their aftercare provider regarding supervision for an early dismissal.
When it becomes apparent that roads will not be safe or the districts parking lots or walkways are not clear, schools are closed in the interest of student, staff and parent safety. The notice to close schools is delivered as soon as possible. Conditions may make the decision extremely difficult with advance notice delivered as late as 5:30 a.m. the day of a closing.
New Jersey school law requires public schools to operate for 180 days from September through June. West Orange has built in three additional days to the district calendar for inclement weather, allowing for schools to be closed for three days without affecting the calendar. This year, should it be necessary to close schools beyond this allotment, school days will be made up April 6, April 7 and June 23, in that order, so that West Orange can meet the 180-day mandate. If the district is to experience more than six closings, it is prepared as a school district to amend the calendar, conduct sessions on days currently marked closed and, if need be, extend the school year beyond June 22, 2020.