The winter season brings with it an increased possibility that they school may have to close due to extreme weather events. Any time the school is closed unexpectedly it causes great disruption to programmes within the school and also for the wider school community who often have to scramble to arrange care for younger students. As such these decisions are not taken lightly. Safety of students, staff, and community is the highest priority. A cautious approach will be taken when considering opening the school if road conditions from snow, ice, wind, or flooding will make travel unsafe. Although people must be responsible for their own safety decisions there can be a pressure for some to push on regardless to get to school for work or learning so as not to let others down or miss out. Also ‘risk transference’ can occur where people assume things will be safe because school has been allowed to open.
An issue we face at the High School with forecast extreme weather is that once the students are at school it is difficult to get many of them home again at short notice due to over 80% of our student travelling by bus. If a large number of students were unable to get home we would have the resources to manage at school overnight but this would be far from ideal, particularly if it was required over several days.
Homes in the school zone range from an altitude of about 40 metres near Templeton to over 500 metres close to the mountains. This means that conditions can vary widely from one side of the zone to another. If the Darfield township and area further east look like they are safe for travel we will consider opening for those who can make it and to run the buses that we can. In such circumstances we must consider whether we are able to get enough staff to school for adequate supervision and a worthwhile programme of learning. About half of the teachers in the school travel from Christchurch and so the conditions there, which at times are worse than in Malvern must also be considered.
If the school is to be closed then parents will be notified by email and text. As such it is important that contact details are up to date. Where possible a notice will also go home with students. Notifications and updates will be on the school website.