LPS Superintendent Paul Gausman on how he makes snow day decisions

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Lincoln Public Schools students were back in school Thursday after a snow day.

How does the district decide when to cancel school for over 40,000 students?

Superintendent Paul Gausman said there are many factors he takes into account before making the call.

“We have a team of people that work together as we know weather events are coming,” he said. “They spend time together digitally looking at the forecast and, of course, drive the roads and understand the conditions that are there. We’re really looking at the timing of the weather.”

Gausman said it can be difficult to make the final decision because the weather doesn’t always do what it’s expected to.

He said the school board can’t create a strict policy because of the unpredictable nature of Nebraska storms.

“It is so easy to judge whether we should have had school or not at the end of the day, when you see what the weather actually did, compared to what you sometimes are having to decide on – a prediction or a forecast,” he said.

Gausman said the district made a rule a few years ago to not use early outs or late starts.

“We’re 43,000 students, and as I acknowledged earlier, 140-plus square miles and 8,000 staff members,” Gausman said. “The decision was made here that this organization is just too big for those quick, nimble decisions of that nature.”

Gausman said LPS doesn’t plan on doing online classes on snow days anytime soon.

“There’s so many challenges with the virtual components, of whether students took their devices home, whether they’re properly charged, whether the staff is ready to teach in that environment,” he said. “One thing we learned from the pandemic is that students learn best when they’re in a classroom with their teacher.”

Gausman said LPS partners with the city to make sure school bus routes can be cleared quickly.

He said he tries to keep schools open if at all possible because some kids may depend on the school for a meal, and parents don’t always have other options for child care.

But ultimately, the decision falls on Gausman, and he said he has one top priority.

“That’s just part of being the superintendent of schools,” he said. “You know when you’re making the snow day decision, you’re going to frustrate someone, so you try to get the emotion out of the way and make the decision purely on the context of keeping students safe.”

Wednesday marked the third snow day for LPS this school year.

Gausman said the district has around five built into the schedule, depending on the grade level.

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