Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 12-12-2013

How much snow is on the ground?  How much do we expect to yet receive?  What is the temperature?  What is the wind doing?  What are the road conditions?  How much time do I have yet to decide?  These are just a few of the points I ponder when making the determination to close school or not.

With the recent early blast of winter I was watching a news article on KVLY trying to characterize what their Superintendent weighs when trying to make a closure determination.  After watching this article I thought it would be a good topic for my blog as well.

The decision to close school or run late is never an easy decision.  No matter what decision is made, unless is absolutely horrid, there are  people who question the decision to close or stay open.  It is just part of the territory when it comes to being a Superintendent.  But, to help you understand what I do to make this decision let me share what happens on a “normal” storm event.

My morning routine begins the night before.  In most instances we know bad weather is approaching.  So the evening before I am listening to the weather forecast (I like  In addition I follow a page on the National Weather Service site that is a wonderful tool.  Both of these are wonderful predictors of snow and other weather events.  They are not 100% but I have found they are better than the gossip on the street.

The next morning I will wake up by 5:15 to allow some time to get ready and if needed scoop off my own driveway.  After that, I will head out in my mobile office, my pickup, to evaluate the actual weather and road conditions.  At this time depending on snow amounts and visibility it is usually easy to decide if it will be a tough morning or not.  I will drive both highway and rural roads in an area within 6-8 miles of Ellendale.  It is not feasible to drive roads from Forbes to Fullerton even though some have asked, time just does not allow for it.  I will tend to drive west of town as this is usually where the harshest weather takes place.  While on this drive I am looking at many variables but to help you understand my thinking here are a few principles…

– Student safety is more important than getting in a day of school
– Visibility is more important than temperature
– Slick roads are less important than snow accumulation
– Cold temperatures are less important than cold and wind together
– Cold by itself will probably not cancel school
– Slick roads by themselves will probably not cancel school
– What things are happening outside of weather including morning activities, sub bus drivers on the routes, and how are the buses running

Before a final decision is made I will pull over my mobile office and communicate with several resources in the area including Charlie Russel, Dickey County 911, Dickey County Highway Dept, and area superintendents.  Each of these provides me with information about what is happening outside the Ellendale area and is vital in making a sound decision.  Over the course of the last 5 years this communication has improved greatly and it is a great asset to me.  Lastly, I will check the ND Highway report along with a few online resources to check incoming weather conditions.

Then I have to make the decision… Think, Think, Think.  So the decision is made, school is going to be late or cancelled.  At that time, usually from my pickup, I will start by sending out a SchoolReach message to all parents and employees informing them of my decision.  After that is done I will update the school web site with a twitter post that also goes to the district Facebook page.  Lastly, I will start calling the TV and radio stations as this can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on how busy they are.  In the future we will probably be adding making an announcement via our school app but this is still in development.


Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 02-12-2013

Many of us awoke to the start of winter this morning, and with it concern about school and bus messages.  All parents should automatically be on the list to receive voicemail messages via our SchoolReach calling system.  However, many of you may not know about the others ways we communicate and how you can help to ensure the appropriate messages reach you each and every time.

SchoolReach – For those that do not know SR is an automated calling system that allows us to send voice, txt, and email messages to you and your family.  This system is commonly used to share information on bad weather but may be used during emergencies or when we just want to remind you about an upcoming event.  The SR system stores up to 5 phone numbers and your email.  The first number is always the home phone you provide the school.  The other 4 numbers are left up to you to manage and are commonly cell, work, or other family members.


*** The important part is that you can manage these numbers to ensure we reach you.  You can manage your child’s numbers in a couple ways:
1. Login to PowerSchool Parent –
At the bottom of the main page will be a SchoolReach icon.  Click on it an you will be taken to a screen  where you can review the numbers we have on file and also enter any desired changes.  *Allow 24 hours for these changes to become active.

2. Use the SchoolReach App – This iPhone or Android app will give you the ability to replay any missed messages but it will also give you access to manage your contact numbers just as described before.  If you have a smart phone this is a wonderful app to have.  To get the app go to to get it today.

3. You Missed It – If you simply missed the SR message you can dial 855-955-8500 to retrieve the last message sent to your phone.

Keep the Lines Open
When a SchoolReach message is sent out, the office will always take 10-20 calls from those that have not heard the message, or just missed it.  I understand some just see the caller ID and call us back.  However, I am asking that if you can first check one of the ways above it would help us out.  It is not that we don’t like speaking to you.  But, we have had times, an early dismissal for example, when we are trying to get calls out from students to their parents and we are inundated by calls just asking what the message was.   Another example would be in the instance of an emergency.  In these instances we need to keep our phone lines clear to call 911 or to even send out follow up messages to you.  Again, please don’t think we hate hearing from you, we don’t.  We just want you to understand you can obtain these messages in other ways that is convenient for you and also for us.

We thank you for your cooperation.