School Closings/Delays - Frequently Asked Questions
Mars Area School District’s administration realizes that the decision to delay the start of classes or to close school because of inclement weather conditions may have a significant impact on Mars Area families. We understand that students are better served both academically and socially by participating in school. However, the safety of our students as they ride our school buses and drive to and from school is always the most important factor in any decision.
When the decision is made to delay or close school, many factors are considered. On occasion, a weather advisory from AccuWeather Snow Warning Service or the National Weather Service may give advance notice of severe weather conditions that might affect the following school day, but in most cases a decision is not made until the morning hours before our schools open.
Note: During the 2020-2021 School Year, Mars Area School District will be utilizing remote learning, which may be used in place of a school day when inclement weather or another emergency situation requires the District to close its school buildings. Students and parents/guardians will be informed of a Remote Learning Day through the District’s mass notification system in the same way that school closings and delays are announced.
1. How are parents/guardians/community members informed of a delay or closing?
Regardless of weather forecasts during evening or morning newscasts, parents/guardians may find closing or delay information via the following resources:
- The District’s website — www.marsk12.org
- The District’s Telephone/E-mail Notification System
- Radio & TV announcements on KDKA-TV and Radio, WTAE-TV and Radio, WPXI-TV, WBUT/LER Radio (Butler) and WISR Radio (Butler)
2. Who watches the weather?
The Superintendent and the other school administrators carefully watch all weather conditions and forecasts.
3. What are the District’s sources of information?
The Superintendent and other school administrators listen to weather forecasts and review notices from AccuWeather Snow Warning Service and the National Weather Service. Starting as early as 4 a.m., the District checks with municipal police about road conditions and also contacts PennDOT, the Pennsylvania State Police and other school districts about road conditions throughout the area. Even if some streets are clear, dangerous conditions may exist in other parts of our District.
4. What factors are considered in the decision to close or delay?
The following factors are taken into consideration:
- Information from PennDOT, bus drivers and state and local police on road conditions, particularly amounts of snow and ice.
- The time snow starts and the amount of snow
- Weather predictions
- Building conditions (for example, power and heat)
- Parking lot conditions
- Temperature and wind-chill factors
5. What choices are available?
During inclement weather, Mars Area School District may run a two-hour delayed opening, close our school buildings, or announce an early release. During the 2020-2021 School Year, the District may also announce a Remote Learning Day.
6. What is a Remote Learning Day?
During the 2020-2021 School Year, Mars Area School District will be utilizing remote learning if school buildings are closed because of inclement weather or another emergency situation.
On a Remote Learning Day, students will be able to connect remotely to their classes during the school day. Students will be expected to log on to each class to participate in live instruction throughout the school day. In classes, for which it may not be feasible to stream instruction, students will be presented with alternative instructional approaches and assignments.
Assignments and other instructional materials will be available via the Schoology learning management system, which may be accessed via the District website, www.marsk12.org. Note: If a student is unable to access the Internet or paper copies of the learning activities, he/she will have five (5) school days to complete the assignments.
7. If the District calls for a Remote Learning Day, how will I know?
Students and parents/guardians will be informed of a Remote Learning Day through the District’s mass notification system in the same way that school closings and delays are announced. Notifications will be distributed via phone and e-mail and will be posted on the District’s website, www.marsk12.org.
8. Will every school closure because of inclement weather be considered a Remote Learning Day?
During the 2020-2021 School Year, any day that our school buildings are closed because of inclement weather, will be considered a Remote Learning Day.
9. On a Remote Learning Day, what will be expected of students, if severe weather conditions result in power outages or other hazardous conditions that may limit or prohibit remote learning?
If a student is unable to access the Internet or paper copies of the learning activities, as soon as possible, the student will need to notify his/her teacher(s) of the inability to access remote learning. The student will have five (5) school days to complete the assignments.
10. Who makes the decision to close or delay?
The Superintendent makes the final decision, based on the above factors and recommendations from the District’s Maintenance Supervisor.
11. When is the decision made?
The Superintendent typically makes the final decision by no later than 6 a.m. and as early as 5:30 a.m. so that television and radio stations, bus drivers and staff members can be notified.
12. How soon after the decision is made, will the District inform parents/guardians/guardians?
Mars Area School District notifies parents/guardians and students via its telephone/e-mail notification system as soon as a decision is made. (Note: The District makes every effort to avoid making calls between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., when possible.) Please note that depending on call volume, the notification system may take several minutes to contact all District parents/guardians/guardians. Parents/guardians are encouraged to monitor the District’s website as well as local radio and television news stations for the latest closing/delay information.
13. Who do I contact if I do not receive a phone call/e-mail regarding a School Closing/Delay?
The District contacts those phone numbers and e-mail addresses listed in the Skyward Family Access portal. If you are not receiving phone calls or e-mails regarding School Closings/Delays, please verify your information in Skyward. If the issue persists, contact the main office in your child(ren)’s school building(s) directly.
14. What does it mean if there is a two-hour delay?
A two-hour delay means that the start of school is delayed for two hours; for example, if school normally starts at 9 a.m., then the delayed start time will be at 11 a.m. Please note that your child’s bus pick-up time will be delayed by two hours as well.
15. How is the Kindergarten program affected, when there is a two-hour delay?
When there is a two-hour delay, Mars Area Primary Center will operate on the following “modified” kindergarten schedule:
AM Kindergarten — 11 a.m. to 12:40 p.m.
(Buses will pick up students two hours later than usual)
PM Kindergarten — 1:45 to 3:25 p.m.
(Students may enter the building at 1:30 p.m.)
Mars Area School District asks that no student be dropped off at school prior to the delayed arrival time. Parents/guardians whose children attend alternative childcare programs are asked to notify the program of the Primary Center’s “modified” kindergarten schedule.
16. If poor weather conditions present a driving hazard in the afternoon hours, will students ever be held at school?
Severe weather and/or potentially dangerous road conditions that occur at or near the time of afternoon dismissal may require the delayed release of students. Students may be held at their individual school building until it is deemed safe for school buses to safely transport students home. If students are to be held at school, the District will make every attempt to contact parents/guardians via the District’s telephone/e-mail notification system. The District asks that parents/guardians please do not attempt to pick up students, as you may be risking your own safety on potentially dangerous roads. Students will be returned home as soon and as safely as possible.
17. Will students ever be released early because of weather conditions?
Mars Area School District will not have an early dismissal unless specifically directed by Butler County Emergency Services, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office or Homeland Security. The District does not commonly practice early dismissals because students who are released early may be arriving at their homes where no adult supervision is present.
18. If there is an early dismissal, how will I know?
Mars Area School District will contact parents/guardians via the District’s telephone/e-mail notification system regarding any early release of students from school as with any other decision to close or delay the start of school. Updated information will also be posted on the District’s website, www.marsk12.org, as it becomes available. Also, please listen to local radio and television news stations for the latest School Closing/Delay information.
Parents/guardians are asked to have a plan in place in case of an early dismissal from school. Parents/guardians should give students clear instructions as to where they should go if their bus is dropping them off earlier than usual. Also, be sure that your child and the school has been given all current home, work and mobile numbers, if they need to contact you. Please review any emergency weather plans with your child if severe weather is in the forecast.