Washoe County School District Superintendent Kristen McNeill sent out an apology to students, parents and staff this afternoon after providing short notice early this morning that school would be conducted via distance learning for the day due to heavy smoke in the valley.
“I recognize that this morning’s decision to go to full distance learning due to unexpected dense smoke in our region could have been communicated in a more effective and timely manner,” the letter began.
The cancellation notice was distributed by email at about 6:30 a.m. and posted to Facebook near that time as well. Almost immediately parents began commenting on the Facebook post to say they’d yet to get a call from the district’s automated phone system. Other parents who commented on the post said their kids were already on buses to get to school, and several students said they were reading the news on Facebook while standing at their bus stop.
“My kids catch the bus at 6:06 and my husband and I have already left for work!” Marciel Bowen commented. “Great communication already! I feel for ya’ll with littler ones. Ridiculous!”
Other commenters noted that the air quality index was elevated overnight and the district’s staff could’ve made the decision the previous night, or at least much earlier in the morning.
Some people did defend the district for making a tough decision, and others thanked them for prioritizing students’ health.
Read McNeill’s full statement:
I recognize that this morning’s decision to go to full distance learning due to unexpected dense smoke in our region could have been communicated in a more effective and timely manner. And I apologize for the problems the timing may have caused our families and staff.
Ideally, I would have preferred to make the decision yesterday evening, but as I have previously mentioned, smoke patterns and density are very difficult to predict with any kind of certainty.
I made the decision, along with my leadership team, using the Air Quality Index Scale and forecasts from the National Weather Service to guide that decision. When the particulate matter range moves above 150 on the Air Quality Index Scale it is classed as unhealthy. It was in the unhealthy range this morning and was not expected to improve until later in the day. This is consistent with previous decisions related to air quality and how decisions will be made in the future if smoke continues to be an issue in our region.
I made this decision with the data available at the time and in the best interest of our students, families and staff.
We will continue to work hard for our students, families, staff and community. I personally will always strive to do better and take full responsibility for today’s decision and we will continue to make improvements on the timing of our communications.
The Washoe County School District has closed schools again today due to dense smoke from regional fires, but will enact distance learning for all students. It released the following statement early this morning:
“Due to unexpected dense smoke moving into our region yesterday evening and throughout the night, we have decided to go to full distance learning today, Friday August 28. Teachers will be contacting students and families to teach distance learning plans.
“As previously stated, smoke patterns and density are very difficult to predict with any kind of certainty. However, all indicators are that the smoke today, Friday, August 28, is forecast not to improve.
“Information regarding food services and pick up will be provided to families later this morning.
“Essential staff should report to school buildings as needed. All other staff will be provided further direction.
“To repeat, today, Friday, August 28, will be a full distance learning school day.“