School Dismissal During Severe Weather: Community Debates Benefits, Disadvantages


Wynne High School in Wynne, Arkansas was destroyed by the tornadoes that swept through the state on March 31. People have different opinions on whether schools are safer during severe weather.

On Friday, March 31, a stage 3 tornado ripped through the cities of Arkansas. North Little Rock High School chose to release their students early due to the inclement weather. Some think this was a dangerous and risky decision, while others believe it was the right decision.

 Via a Facebook post, meteorologist Ryan Vaughan states, “…How we should handle severe weather in the afternoon…I’ve always kinda leaned towards this thinking that we should keep the kids at school.” He then goes on to say, “It’s better to keep them at school because there are responsible adults and substantial structure.”

While Vaughan sees school as the safest place to be, parents and teachers see it differently.

Karen Reed, parent, says, “I feel as though it was a really good call on behalf of the district. It allowed parents to take necessary steps to ensure the entire family was safe and counted for.” She also goes on to state, “I couldn’t imagine taking shelter without knowing if my child is safe or not.”

The weather technology is much better now that meteorologists and reporters can forecast and track the severity of the weather to prepare schools and the community to make the best decisions for their safety. 

For example, on April 5, the North Little Rock School District closed down their campuses and had a remote learning day. The decision to shut down schools came from the severe weather warning issued the previous night.

“Due to the threat of more severe weather, NLRSD will have a remote learning day today,” explained Dr. Nadia Saint-Louis, principal of North Little Rock High School. 

Originally, the NLRSD planned on a 2.5 hour delay for the schools on April 5, but the threat of severe weather became more imminent and the district decided to close the schools.

While the storms proved to not be as serious as the ones that occurred on March 31, many believed that taking precautionary measures was the best decision.

NLRHS math teacher Allison Passmore’s home was damaged in the storm on March 31. She expresses similar views to Reed, believing that dismissing early was a good idea.

“If I had not been able to go home early, I would not have been able to get to my house because of all the trees that were down. It would’ve taken hours to get home to see what my situation was,” says Passmore.

Though Passmore acknowledges that the school building may be a safer structure, she expresses concern about teachers who might be separated from their families. 

“Can you imagine all of the families that were like ‘Where is my kid? I can’t get to my kid, I want my kid’,” says Passmore.

Though meteorologists tend to believe that school buildings are generally the safest place to be, the high school of Wynne, Ark. was completely destroyed by the storms on March 31. On the other hand, cities like Conway, Ark. list school buildings as shelters open for the public in the midst of strong storms.

Ryan Vaughan admits that the decision to dismiss early or hold students and staff during a storm is a gray area, and people should overall trust the schools to do the right thing.

“Just respect the decision of whatever the superintendent decides to do and just go with it. I don’t think there’s a perfect answer”, says Vaughan. 

Vaughan does have some advice for school districts who plan to release students and teachers because of severe weather conditions.

“If you’re going to get out early, don’t just do it an hour– where you get out at 2 and there are still buses out at 4. If you’re going to do it, make sure you have a substantial amount of time to get everyone home.” advises Vaughan.