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Letter from our Executive Director

January 17, 2018

January 17, 2018

Dear Team and Family,

We have received some questions and concerns regarding the decision to return to normal school schedule today, given the cold temperatures and the surrounding districts’ decision to delay the start of their schools by 2 hours. I want to share how we made the decision, what we could have done better, and respond to the more common questions and concerns we heard since yesterday.

In November 2017, we communicated via a letter that KIPP Austin’s School Closing Policy was changing. Due to our growth to 10 schools and 5,000 students coming from Austin and surrounding areas, we chose to no longer follow AISD’s school closing or delay decisions. We educate students from ten different school districts and at times, these school districts choose different approaches to school closures and delays. We realized after the impact storms from Hurricane Harvey had that it was the right time to make this change that will allow us to respond more specifically to the needs and safety of our students, families and staff. We have posted the current School Closing Policy on our website for your review.

In regards to the decision to operate without a delay today and the decisions we have made previously to cancel school this year, we followed our new policy which includes taking the following steps:

1. KIPP Austin participates in coordinating conference calls with county, city and state officials that advise school districts on current and future weather conditions so school districts can make an informed decision regarding school closings or delays.

On yesterday’s calls, we were assured by those county, city and state officials that road conditions were safe and clear for bus pick up this morning. At the time that we made our decision, we heard that many other public agencies were choosing to operate at their regular hours. In addition, we learned on the call that no more precipitation was expected overnight or today, therefore, road conditions were only expected to improve.

2. We participate in a call with local area Superintendents who share their thinking and decision-making regarding school closures and delays.

At the time we made our decision, the local school districts were not unified in closing or having delays.

3. We discuss safety concerns with our bus company.

We were able to confirm with Apple Bus Company that they also deemed it safe to run our buses at the regular time and that all the buses they use to pick up KIPP Austin students have heat.

4. We make the final decision considering the safety of our students, families, and staff as our top priority.

An additional safety concern we had was temperature. When we looked at the expected temperatures for this morning, the difference between normal pick up time and 2 hours later was minimal (2 degrees) and temperatures were not expected to get above freezing until this afternoon.

I do think there are opportunities for growth. In the spirit of being decisive and prompt, we made our decision before AISD, based on the information we had. Once AISD announced their delay, many of the other school districts, higher education institutions, and city offices that were not intending to delay, updated their decision and announced a delay. I do think we need to carefully consider waiting until those decisions are made before we make our decision in the future.

Thank you to those of you that reached out. We always appreciate and welcome your feedback and hope you feel confident that our decision was made with the safety and well-being of our students, families and staff as our top priority. We will work to continue to improve our decision making and your feedback has helped us get better!

Steven Epstein

Executive Director

KIPP Austin Public Schools