No matter where you are in the world, your program or center will – at some point – experience an unexpected need to close. It could be due to weather, or it could be a burst water pipe. As they say, preparation is key; when writing your policies, consider how you’ll decide on emergency closures, how you’ll notify staff and families, and how the closures will impact payments and calendars.
Depending on the type of program or center you administer, you may be required to follow a set policy for emergency closings, so be sure to check. Many private programs choose to follow local school district closures, although depending on the size of the district and your hours of operation, you might need to devise a different plan. As a general rule, this writer recommends that the number one consideration of any potential closure is safety. If it will put families or staff members at risk to travel, it probably isn’t a good idea to expect attendance at that time. While this can be irritating – parents might still have to work and make emergency arrangements – it is much better safe than sorry.
This issue is further complicated when meals are taken into account – if your center or program is one that provides a number of critical meals to students that might not otherwise have adequate nutrition, it can feel hard to justify a closure. Should you stay open to serve the families that show up, knowing that some might be willing or able to make the trip that day? Will you expect all staff to attend if you open during risky conditions – and if there is a high staff to student ratio, will you send staff home with pay? Without pay?
When it comes to money, also consider if families will be refunded for emergency closures. Will they be refunded in the form of payment, or will extra days be added on to the school year (if you follow a school year calendar?) How would adding extra days impact time off, training time, and holiday schedules for staff and families. How will you notify families of emergency closures, and by what time will you do so? Who will be responsible for getting the message to families – supervisors, classroom teachers, a phone tree?
Where To Include
At Playvolution HQ, we recommend programs have three handbooks–a Parent Handbook, a Staff Handbook, and an Operating Handbook. Consider adding this policy to your Operating Handbook.
- Your program or center might consider investing in listserv software or messaging apps in order to quickly communicate closings to families.
- Your local licensing agency might require a certain type of notification for an emergency closing – check to see if there’s any official records you need to keep and/or send.
- Many public TV and radio stations allow schools to submit their operating status on inclement weather days; consider finding out if can be a part of the listed schools.
Disclaimer: These are sample policies intended for use as a guide in policy development. Your program’s policies should be unique to your program and reflect the program’s culture, practices, and the regulations in your area.
Nature Preschool is closed whenever Bullock Creek School District is canceled, including snow days. Occasionally, we will be closed for unexpected circumstances. If there is a 2 hour delay for Bullock Creek School District, the morning session is canceled and the afternoon session will run as scheduled.
Chippewa Nature Center, Michigan, USA
The decision to cancel the regular school day program is usually made about 5:30 a.m., and no later than 6:30 a.m. if at all possible. Only in unusually severe weather conditions is a decision made the night before. A fog delay is an unpredictable weather condition that may cause delays to be made after the time indicated above. Occasionally school is dismissed early because of weather. It is very important that all parents talk with their children about the procedure to be followed in the event of an early release. Your school’s office must be notified in advance of any special arrangements or transportation. Planning in advance reduces stress and anxiety for your children and saves many last minute phone calls to the school. In the event of tornado or severe thunderstorm watches/warnings, it may be necessary to extend the school day rather than send children home in threatening weather. All students who ride the bus will be returned to school if the bus driver determines that they cannot be left home.
It is important to keep any phone number changes up-to-date so that you will receive these calls. If school is cancelled due to inclement weather, all preschool classes are also cancelled. Please see your school’s policy on school delays.
Great Start Sanilac, Michigan, USA
The School makes every effort to stay open during inclement weather and snow storms for the entire day. If weather conditions are severe, we may delay opening, close early, or close for the day; in one of these events it will be announced on WMUR Channel 9 (or www.wmur.com).
Tuition is contracted for the year, and will not be credited for delays or closures.
It is our sincere hope to be able to offer consistent care throughout the winter months. We try to avoid closing the School for the day by utilizing delayed openings or early closings so that families can get as much out of their work day as possible.
When the Portsmouth Public Schools are closed, it may become necessary to delay opening of SCS and PEAK. Please check WMUR for updates or call SCS (422-8223) anytime after 6:15 a.m. When the Portsmouth Public Schools are closed, the half day Community School program at Dondero will not be open.
Parents will be notified by phone and the above radio stations may announce the closing. Please make sure you are available by phone; if you are not available by phone, we need AT LEAST two other emergency contacts that can be reached by phone and are authorized to pick up your child.
Seacoast Community School, New Hampshire, USA
Have a Parent, Staff, or Operating handbook you’d like to share with us for use in our policy samples? You can upload PDFs here.
Thoughts on this topic? Share them in the comments, we’d love to know what you think.
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