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HWDSB Building

Severe Weather

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The difficult decision to remain open or to close is always made with the safety and security of our students and staff in mind. Here are some guidelines to remember:

  • When bad weather is expected, Hamilton-Wentworth Student Transportation Services (HWSTS) carriers check weather reports, road conditions and road clearing, starting as early as 4 a.m.
  • Based on this information, the Director of Education makes the decision in conjunction with Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board.
  • HWDSB will announce the cancellation of school and board operations by 6 a.m. based on the best information at the time. We share this announcement on the HWDSB website, HWDSB’s Twitter account and on the HWSTS website. We also contact local media outlets including CHCH TV, CHML and the Hamilton Spectator.
  • School board have varied policies on cancellations. The HWDSB Rule is: Severe weather + Bus cancellation = No school. When HWDSB cancels busing due to inclement weather, we have deemed the roads unsafe and this triggers the closure of schools.
  • In extreme cold, buses may not start or run as expected and HWDSB may need to cancel transportation. But this does not automatically mean that schools will close. The Director (or designate) has discretion to keep schools open when busing is cancelled due to extreme cold.
  • A school cancellation is a tough decision – and some families may disagree with HWDSB’s call. Families can always make the choice they feel is best when it comes to sending their child to school.
  • For more information, please see our Inclement Weather and Board Cancellations Policy.

Snow-clearing at HWDSB schools is a responsibility shared by Board staff, contractors and the City of Hamilton.

  • HWDSB staff clear salt and/or sand walkways from the city sidewalk to the school, school and portable steps, walkways to portables, ramps to schools and portables, areas outside entrances and fire exit doors, fire exit stairs and ramps.
  • HWDSB contractors after 5+cm of snow will plow parking lots and sidewalks when HWDSB Facilities staff deem it necessary, salt and sand the parking lot before school starts, and if required, Head Caretakers may also salt or sand parts of the parking lot.
  • The City of Hamilton is responsible for clearing snow and ice from sidewalks directly in front of schools, a top priority for the City; note that it may take up to 24 hours after a snowfall for sidewalks to be cleared. Report a sidewalk fronting a school in need of clearing at 905-546-CITY (2489).

Playgrounds are not plowed or cleared. Head Caretakers inspect playgrounds and sand and/or salt areas made slippery by changing temperatures. Students should take extra caution when walking or playing on school property that may be slippery. Principals concerned about weather or playground conditions may hold indoor recesses and lunch/nutrition breaks.

Time spent outdoors is an integral part of the school day. There are great benefits when children experience fresh air, exercise and time spent time outside. Outdoor play is also a break from the structure of the classroom.

Depending on the season, preparing for outdoor play in Canada can mean anything from applying sunscreen to wear mittens and a hat. During winter, it’s important that children come to school prepared for the cold. Students should wear boots, mittens/gloves and hats and it’s a good idea to pack extra mittens, socks, etc. in case they are needed.

Principals decide whether to send students outside for recess. HWDSB asks Principals to follow the City of Hamilton guideline that people stay inside when it’s at or below -15C, or -20C with wind chill.

A heat event occurs when the weather calls for one day with a 40C or higher humidex reading. The City of Hamilton monitors weather forecasts closely and provides warning to the media and their community partners.

Once HWDSB has been notified of a heat event, the following precautionary steps will be taken for students and staff:

  • Limit physical outdoor activities
  • Ensure access to water
  • Close drapes and blinds
  • Move pupils through cooler areas of the school

For more information, or steps you can take to reduce risks during heat events, please visit the following websites:

City of Hamilton

Health Canada

Updated on Thursday, August 20, 2015.
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