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Decision-making Process

Each year, because of snow, ice, and/or extreme cold, the Elizabethtown Area School District is faced with the tough decision about whether to open, delay, or close school. During inclement weather, our first priority is the safety and welfare of our students and staff.  At the same time, the closing of school can be burdensome to families due to child care and work schedules.  We consider cancelling school to be an exception and we place a strong emphasis on keeping our schools open.  We take many factors into consideration when making the determination but the guiding principal is always to keep student and our staff safe. Some of the primary factors that are considered when making a decision include:

  • The safety and well-being of students and staff
  • Severity of the weather (extreme cold, excessive snow, flooding, etc.)
  • Timing of the weather events
  • The ability of buses and cars to travel safely
  • The operable condition of our buildings

We have prepared this document to help our stakeholders better understand the process the District uses when making the decision to keep open, delay, or close school and the multitude of factors that are considered when making the decision.


  • Weather Conditions And The Forecast: The District makes use of many sources to receive the best available and most accurate weather information possible. This includes local forecasts, online sources for weather and radar, emergency management personnel, and our own team of select employees. However, forecasting the weather is not an exact science and weather conditions can change quickly for the worse (or better). Key factors considered include current weather conditions, predicated weather conditions, the hazard created by the weather conditions, and the timing of the inclement weather as it relates to the start and close of our school day.
  • Road Conditions Throughout The District: The Elizabethtown Area School District covers over fifty square miles, stretching from the Susquehanna River to the borders of Dauphin and Lebanon Counties. Weather conditions can vary drastically from one area of our school district to another. While main roads may be clear and free of snow, sleet, and ice, many rural roads in our municipalities may pose a safety hazard not only for our bus fleet but also for walkers, car riders, and student drivers alike. In assessing current and predicated road conditions, the District communicates with the Road Masters from each municipality, our contracted transportation provider, and a team from our buildings and grounds department, as well as local first responders and emergency management officials who help provide information on current and future travel conditions. Rest assured the conditions of our roads and sidewalks play a major role in determining whether or not a decision is made to delay or close school.
  • School Building And Parking Lot Conditions: Snow and ice must be removed from parking lots and sidewalks to ensure the safety of students, staff, and visitors. The District’s dedicated buildings and grounds team often works during the overnight and early morning hours to prepare the school campuses to open in a safe and timely manner. Depending on the weather, this is no small feat and can create quite a challenge to remain ahead of the weather so the campuses are safe to open. The opening of school may be delayed or even closed if we believe our campuses are not safe.
  • Status Of Our Transportation Fleet: The District contracts with Durham School Services and Faithful Transport to provide its bus service. In an extreme weather event, buses need to be cleared of snow and ice to ensure safe travel. While each transportation company works in the early morning hours to prepare the buses for service, ongoing weather conditions can make it a challenge to get the bus fleets on the road. The District consults with its transportation companies during a weather event to determine if the buses can safely transport students.

The decision to open, delay, or close school due to a weather event (i.e. snow, ice, extreme temperatures) is typically made between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. to allow for proper communication to our families and staff. In some instances, based on the forecast or severity of the weather event, we are able to make that decision the night before and share with our families at that time. However, given the fickle and ever changing nature of weather this is not always possible.

Choosing to delay or close school is not a decision the District takes lightly, as we certainly recognize the importance of keeping our students and staff safe and at the same time understand that unplanned schedule changes can be disruptive to a household. However, there are times when weather deteriorates after the initial decision, causing a two-hour delay to change to a school closing. Please know, we do our best to make the initial decision based on the above-mentioned criteria but we all know the nature of weather and forecasts can be unpredictable and may require a revised decision.

Yes. If we decide to hold school, it is because the District has determined it is safe to do so. However, the decision to send your child to school ultimately rests with each family. We want to emphasize that parents/guardians have the right to keep students home from school, take them to school, or provide your own transportation to school later when the roads are less of a concern if they feel the road conditions are unsafe. Students that drive to school do so under parent/guardian direction. Student drivers who are eligible for bus transportation always have the option to take the bus to and from school. This decision is between you and your child.


  • Current And Forecasted Weather: The timing of a weather event and/or the severity of the predicted weather event plays a large role in the District’s decision to delay or cancel school. When forecasts call for twenty plus inches of snow the decision is easy. However, in most instances, the forecast calls for one to three inches of snow during the overnight hours or early morning hours making the decision much more difficult. As explained above, the District uses all available information on the forecast to make its decision keeping student safety at the forefront.
  • Hazardous Travel Conditions: When an extreme weather event has occurred or is occurring, snow, ice, and sleet on the roadways may make travel hazardous. As such, given the safety of our students and staff is paramount, we may delay the opening of school to allow for travel conditions to improve or cancel school outright if the forecasted weather is to continue throughout the day keeping travel conditions dangerous.
  • Extreme Temperatures: There are no national or professional standards for temperature or other weather conditions that necessitate a school delay or closing. The National Weather Service issues Advisories when wind chills are predicted to reach minus 15 degrees and warnings at minus 25 degrees. In the event of extreme cold, the District generally calls for a delay or school closing when the wind chill falls below minus 20 degrees. Prolonged exposure to extreme cold of this nature is dangerous. Under those conditions, students could suffer from frostbite or hypothermia. In addition, sometimes, due to these extremely low temperatures, the district faces challenges with electricity, heating, frozen pipes, and school vehicles that do not start requiring a school delay or closing. We strongly encourage students to dress appropriately for the weather.



  • We Want To Get The Day In: While we believe the continuity of instruction is invaluable and school delays and closings can disrupt instruction, the myth that we “want to get the day in” is not factual. Snow days are built into the District calendar and additional days can be added to the end of the school year so it is not necessary to “get the day in” at the expense of student and staff safety.
  • All School Districts Talk And Make The Same Decision: Given the interconnectivity of school districts in Lancaster County and the programs and services being provided by each, school district leadership naturally communicates with one another during a weather event as each individual decision can have ramifications on neighboring districts. However, the decision to open, delay, or close school is uniquely the decision of each school district and just because one closes does not necessarily mean all others will close.