Tuesday, November 22, 2016

School Bus Safety

We mourn for the students, families, and colleagues in Chattanooga, TN.

Children going to school is such an ingrained element of our culture, and we expect that they will be able to get to and from school without incident. Yesterday, we saw the tragic images of the aftermath of a school bus accident in Tennessee which needlessly took the lives of five young school children.

At this time, not much is known about the incident except that the bus was traveling at a speed much higher than what is posted for a residential area. We do not know if the bus in Tennessee had restraint systems in place for its passengers, nor if the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. We join everyone in praying for the families that have been affected by this horrible situation.

Here in the School District of Janesville (SDJ), we take the health and safety of all students, staff, and visitors to our schools seriously. On any given day in Janesville, our partner, Van Galder Bus Company, will transport roughly 700 students out of the total 10,000+ in our schools (less than 10%), not including transportation for student field trips and athletic events. Our school board has long supported many safety measures, including the phasing in of passenger restraint systems in the bus fleet for our students. 

For our students who are transported daily by bus to and from school, there are several safety measure in place. As our contracted transportation provider, Van Galder does screen its drivers, including drug testing and random screenings. They also have monitoring systems in place that can identify if a bus has travelled at an excessive rate of speed, or if a bus had a sudden acceleration or deceleration.

Additionally, when Van Galder purchases new buses to replace and upgrade their fleet, they do so with restraint systems (seat belts) for the passengers. This adds around $15,000 (on average) to the cost of the bus, which the SDJ has covered. Among the buses used to transport our students daily, there are 10 traditional buses, and 19 buses used for students with special needs.  Of the 10 traditional buses, 5 have been upgraded to have passenger restraint systems. All 19 buses used for students with special needs have passenger restraint systems in place.

We don’t know if seat belts on the bus in Tennessee would have made a difference or not. While we are saddened by this event, we can be comforted somewhat by the precautions we have taken to keep our students safe.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

2016-17 Inclement Weather Information


We are fast approaching the start of the winter season, and because this is Wisconsin, it is a good time to remind everyone of the procedures the School District of Janesville (SDJ) has in place for dealing with inclement weather such as heavy snow and/or extreme cold. Should it become necessary to delay the start of school or to cancel school, SDJ will use the Infinite Campus system as our primary means of notification to parents and guardians. 

Since Infinite Campus Messenger will be our primary method of updating parents on school delays and closures, we urge parents/guardians to make sure their contact information is correct in the system. Because all weather related messages will be sent out as “Priority” messages, please make sure you have one of the boxes checked in the “Priority” section (Click here for Instructions on How to Change Contact Information).


WCLO AM 1230 radio, the Janesville Gazette, and other local radio and TV stations will post school closing or delay information. The SDJ Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SDJK12/) and the district website (https://www.janesville.k12.wi.uswill also be updated to reflect the closing or delays.  Closing and delay information will be communicated to the public the night before (if possible) or no later than 6:00 a.m. on the day of the closing or delay.




In order to keep district telephone lines open for general operations, we ask parents/guardians not to call the district for closing information/confirmation. 


The School District of Janesville does not close early to avoid incoming snow or ice storms.  This policy is to protect children who may get home before their parents and have no access or supervision.  If a parent/guardian is concerned about incoming weather, they may come to the school to have their child released early.  

There will be no athletic contests and practices on days school is canceled due to weather related reasons.  On days when school is in session, but weather has progressively gotten worse, cancellations for after school or evening athletics and/or extracurricular activities will be announced by 2:00 p.m. on WCLO.

Decisions to cancel school are made in coordination with both the Janesville Transit System, and Van Galder Bus Company.  They are also based on the passage of city streets, safety of rural students, and information from the county highway and city street departments. The SDJ also consults with a meteorologist and a team of District staff and area Superintendents before the decision is made.

The final decision to delay or close school for SDJ rests with me. If school is closed, be aware that all Preschool 4 Janesville (P4J) programs located at Adams, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison and Wilson elementary schools will also be closed. Should a decision be made to delay the start of school by one or two hours as opposed to closing, the Adams, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, and Wilson P4J morning programs will be cancelled, but they will hold their afternoon sessions as regularly scheduled. If your child attends P4J at a private location or community child care center, be sure to contact your P4J site coordinator to confirm any closings or delays.

It is important to note that parents/guardians always have the option of keeping their child home due to inclement weather. You should always call your child’s school to report the decision to keep them home. Your child will receive a principal excused absence. 

The SDJ school calendar has several days built in to accommodate weather delays/closures. However, should the district exceed those buffer days, state law requires the SDJ to make-up days to meet the minimum number of hours of direct pupil instruction (http://dpi.wi.gov/cal/days-hours). We did not have to do that last year, but with the unpredictability of Wisconsin winter weather, it is always something to remember.

The decision to delay or close school due to weather is not taken lightly. Rest assured that the SDJ has a great team that will be clearing sidewalks and parking lots/playgrounds, and keeping the heat on in the buildings. Our mission is to provide an excellent education to all students, but we must also keep the health and safety of our students and staff in mind. It is important for everyone to be prepared for whatever the weather may send our way.