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Superintendent Marcus Chambers sheds light on school closure, delay process due to weather

Superintendent Chambers explained Okaloosa School District's process for making decisions about school closures, delays, and early releases during severe weather, emphasizing student safety, collaboration with public safety officials, and consideration of the entire county.
Okaloosa Superintendent of Schools, Marcus Chambers

During an Okaloosa County School Board workshop meeting on Monday, Superintendent Marcus Chambers addressed the district’s decision-making process regarding school cancellations, delays, and early releases due to severe weather.

Last Friday, the district delayed start times by three hours in anticipation of severe weather, with North End schools ultimately being canceled for the day after the storm caused damage and power outages.

Chambers emphasized that the district does not make decisions based solely on weather apps but instead consults with Patrick Maddox, Okaloosa Public Safety Director, who is in contact with experts at the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama.

Chambers said that the district considers the entire county when making weather-related decisions, not just specific regions.

  • “Every decision is made based on the safety of our students, our teachers, our support professionals, our administrators and our district staff,” Chambers said.

The district communicates with various stakeholders, including the military, unions, and community organizations, to ensure everyone is on the same page, according to Chambers. They also use a communication system called “Thrillshare” to send out information to the school district and families, although a recent glitch caused messages to be sent multiple times.

Deputy Superintendent Steve Horton explained that the district builds additional time into school schedules to absorb potential disruptions without falling under the minimum requirements for seat time and funding. If necessary, the district can petition the state for forgiveness or adjust the calendar.

Board Member Tim Bryant expressed appreciation for the Superintendent’s courage in making these decisions and his willingness to explain the process to the community.

  • “When we get that call from you, I know you’ve thought long and hard about it along with your team,” Bryant said.

Chambers emphasized that the decision-making process is a team effort and that the district is prepared to make adjustments if weather conditions change throughout the day.

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