How to Prepare Your Daycare For Snow Closures and Keep Parents, Staff Informed
This post was originally created and published by Procare Solutions on November 2nd, 2021. You can find the original piece here. It is reprinted here with permission from Procare.
Did you know that 39 states get at least five inches of snow per year? That means that a majority of Americans live in places where snow closures are, at the very least, a possibility.
As a child care center owner, you need to be prepared!
Let’s discuss when to call a snow day and four ways to prepare your child care center for snow closures.
When to Call a Snow Day
So when should you close your daycare because of snow? It’s a difficult question to answer because there are so many different factors to consider.
An inch of snow in Colorado isn’t a big deal. The Mile High City is used to this kind of weather and is equipped to handle it. The same can’t be said for other cities, though, where an inch of snow might cause a flurry of snow closures.
When deciding whether or not to call a snow day, consider the safety of your teachers and the families you serve. Will they be able to get to your center without incident? If the answer is no, call a snow day. If the answer is yes, carry on as you normally would.
We also suggest keeping an eye on the public schools in your area. If the buses are running, there’s a good chance that the roads are safe enough to drive. If they’re not, it’s probably a good idea to close down your child care center until the weather improves.
Pro Tip: Snow closure decisions should be made in the early morning rather than the night before. This will allow you to account for current conditions.
Alexander Graham Bell once said that “before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” The question is, how do you prepare for snow closures?
These four tips will help:
1. Set Snow Closure Policies
You should set snow closure policies for your child care center well before you need them. That way the families you serve know what to expect and aren’t thrown for a loop when the snow rolls in and you shut down operations for the day.
Your snow closure policy should have these five elements:
Explain How Your Decision to Close is Made: List the things that factor into your decision to call a snow day. Information about current road conditions, the build-up of snow and ice, temperature and wind chill, the expected forecast, building and parking lot conditions are all valid factors and can be used to determine when you close your center and for how long.
Detail Who Makes the Decision to Close: State who is responsible for snow closure decisions. Is it you, the owner of your daycare center? If you have multiple locations, do you let each director under you make the call for themselves? Include these details for parents in your snow closure policy.
Set Deadlines for Making a Decision: When will parents know if your center is closed for the day? As mentioned earlier, we suggest making an early morning decision to account for the latest conditions. Just make it early enough that parents can make alternate plans if necessary.
Describe How Early Dismissals Will Work: Weather can be extremely hard to predict — just ask your local meteorologist. There’s a chance that you’ll open your daycare in the morning, conditions will worsen and you’ll have to dismiss kids early so that everyone can get home before the brunt of the storm hits. Information about this potential scenario should be included in your snow closure policy.
Explain How Snow Closures Affect Fees: Finally, make it clear to parents how your center handles snow closures in terms of finances. Will they receive a refund for the missed day(s)? In most cases, the answer is no. Many child care centers do not offer refunds for snow closures. This helps them continue to pay their staff. But you need to make a decision for your own center and then state it in your snow closure policy.
Once you’ve drafted your snow closure policy, make sure it’s accessible to parents. Post it on your website, include it in enrollment paperwork and send it in an email blast.
2. Keep Parents Updated
It’s important to communicate with parents at all times. But it’s especially important to prioritize communication before, during and after snow closures.
Parents shouldn’t have to ask, “Should I take my kids to daycare today?” or “I wonder when the child care center will open back up?” They shouldn’t have to ask about these things because you’ll keep them updated and give them the answers they need.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast during the winter months. If snow is expected, contact parents and let them know that a snow closure is a possibility. If you do have to close your center, give parents real-time updates as to when you might reopen.
3. Help Families Plan for a Snow Day
The weather is anything but predictable, which can make planning ahead a little tricky. If you have a sneaking suspicion that a snow closure is coming, do the families you serve a favor and send kids home with activities the day before.
For example, you could send kids home with the materials they’ll need to complete a fun craft or the directions to an inside game they can play during the snowstorm. Another idea is a list of movies you recommend they watch on Netflix, Disney Plus or another streaming service.
If you want to remain hands on, plan Zoom meetings during snow closures. That way you can read to kids or sing songs with them and give their frazzled parents a break.
Does planning ahead take extra effort? Yes. Will it be worth the trouble? YES!
Parents pay you to watch their kids because they have other responsibilities to attend to during the day. They’re not used to managing these responsibilities and their children, which means snow closures are often tough to deal with.
If you can relieve their stress by planning a few activities for them to do with their children, they’ll be incredibly grateful and much more likely to continue patronizing your business. They’ll be more willing to spread the word about your daycare to others, too.
How engaged with your parents are you? Take our quiz to find out!
4. Coordinate With Your Staff
Parents aren’t the only ones you need to communicate with during snow closures. You need to keep your staff updated as well. For example, your teachers should know:
- If They Need to Come in to Work: When you tell parents that your daycare is closed, make sure you tell your staff, too. The earlier in the morning you do this, the better.
- When the Snow Closure Will End: Tell your staff when you expect to open your daycare again. If you don’t know, promise to keep them updated.
- What to Do While They’re at Home: Just because your teachers can’t come to work doesn’t mean they can’t do anything. Assign them tasks they can do from home, such as leading Zoom meetings or planning next week’s craft time.
- If They Can Expect a Normal Paycheck: Does your child care center pay staff during snow closures? Make sure your employees know so they can plan accordingly.
Bring your staff into the decision-making process and ask them for their opinions. Think about how far they have to drive to get to work and how the weather conditions will affect their commute. Doing so will make them feel like valued members of your team.