On February 24, 2020, The National Weather Service designated Mukwonago Area School District StormReady at the monthly school district meeting. StormReady is a designation offered to communities, including school districts, across the United States for reaching federal standards of weather safety. Mukwonago Area School District through the leadership of Andy Wegner, district Operations Manager; Shawn McNulty, Superintendent; Tom Karthouseer, Director of Business Services and Andy Trudell, Athletic Director reached these standards.
Mukwonago Area School District is located in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It covers 90 square miles in Waukesha county and is composed of eight schools serving nearly 5500 students, teachers and staff.
To reach federal standards of weather safety, communities and school districts must invest in learning their risk to adverse and dangerous weather, create action plans, increase their communication platform capabilities to receive weather warnings and communicate when to enact their plan of actions. Finally a shelter assessment with annual training of staff fulfills the requirements.
Schools are especially vulnerable to severe weather. School districts only practice tornado drills during normal school hours. By far, severe weather occurs after traditional school hours. For example, the typical Wisconsin tornado is on the ground a few minutes after 5pm. This is true for most states across the country. If your school district doesn’t have a strategy for the 5pm tornado, you aren’t prepared for severe weather.
Since January 2020 (less than 3 months as of publish date), at least 21 schools in the United States have been damaged or destroyed by severe weather. Weather plans are not only about safety. They are also about business continuity. If you lost one school or multiple schools in a matter of minutes from severe weather, does your school district have a plan to move forward safely missing as little school as possible? In the last three months, multiple school districts have been forced to close for at least a week to manage logistics after severe damage or total loss of schools.
Certified Consulting Meteorologist Mark McGinnis assists school districts across the country increase their weather awareness and response. If you are concerned about your storm shelters, district plans and training, reach out to Mark for guidance.