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Changes to ‘adverse weather’ policy in effect

WCU has divided its “Adverse Weather and Emergency Closings” policy into two polices and incorporated changes in accordance with updated guidelines issued by the N.C. Office of State Human Resources.

Effective as of Jan. 1, the policy changes include requiring the National Weather Service to have issued a severe weather warning for employees to be eligible to use “adverse weather leave” to account for and be able to make-up missed work time as a result of inclement weather. The changes also include reducing the period in which employees can make-up missed work time that supervisors approved as “adverse weather leave” to 90 days. The requirement that an employee can only make up adverse weather leave during a week when the employee has leave or paid holiday time to avoid overtime compensation also has been removed.

The updated guidelines were approved by the State Human Resources Commission in December after Gov. Pat McCrory asked the N.C. Office of State Human Resources to review the existing policy.

More specific information about implementation of the Adverse Weather and Emergency Closing policies at WCU will be posted on the WCU Hub intranet site. General information about the policies and changes is posted on the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources website at http://oshr.nc.gov/policies-forms/leave/adverse-weather.

When wintry, inclement weather hits the region, deciding when and whether it is safe to travel to work or class, or if deteriorating weather conditions necessitate an early departure, ultimately lies with each faculty and staff member and student. Employees are asked to communicate with their supervisors as soon as possible when they are concerned that travel to or from campus would be unsafe for them.

In turn, supervisors of staff members are responsible for communicating to employees whether they are designated as mandatory or non-mandatory and what the work expectations are. Employees designated as “mandatory” enable the university to continue to provide services to students, including nearly 4,000 who live on campus, during periods of adverse weather. A “mandatory” employee is one who is required to work during adverse weather conditions because his or her position has been designated by the supervisor as essential to university operations.

Employees whose supervisors designate them as “non-mandatory” will be able to charge time lost to leave with or without pay, as appropriate, or work with their supervisors to potentially make up the time lost in accordance with provisions in the adverse weather policy.

In addition, individual instructors who cannot travel to class meetings are asked to communicate with their department heads to discuss plans, and, if the face-to-face class meeting must be canceled, to communicate the news with their students as soon as possible. In that case, the instructor should coordinate an alternative and meaningful assignment for students, said Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar.

When necessary, the provost can cancel face-to-face classes across the Cullowhee campus or at the Biltmore Park location based on conditions at those sites.

For the campus in Cullowhee, Morrison-Shetlar works with Tammi Hudson, emergency manager, to assess the safety of traveling across campus to classes, and between West Campus and East Campus. When there is adverse weather, Hudson monitors road conditions and reviews reports and weather projections. One factor she considers is whether it would be safe for Cat-Tran buses to run regular routes, she said. She then provides the information and updates to the provost.

For the Biltmore Park location – a site in which students commute to classes – Morrison-Shetlar discusses conditions and concerns with Kevan Frazier, executive director for WCU Programs at Biltmore Park, before making a decision about possible class cancellations there. Frazier also consults with officials at the University of North Carolina at Asheville about area safety and weather conditions to share with the provost.

When an early-morning decision must be made about whether to cancel classes, Hudson said, the goal is to provide the provost with the information she needs to make that decision and distribute it to the university community by 6 a.m. so that students and faculty have ample opportunity to make decisions about travel.

If face-to-face classes are canceled for part or all of a day in Cullowhee or at Biltmore Park, the Office of Communications and Public Relations posts the information on the WCU website weather.wcu.edu, emails are sent to faculty, staff and students, and it is posted on the university’s social media channels. Area media outlets are asked to alert members of the WCU community to check the university website for class cancellation information. WCU is exploring using text messaging through the university’s emergency notification system to send out weather announcements starting in fall 2015, said Hudson.

Officials note that the cancellation of classes does not close campus, and the cancellation of classes does not mean students will simply skip or miss the material, discussion or activity that had been planned for that class meeting. Instructors will assign meaningful online or alternative assignments to students in classes that are canceled, said Morrison-Shetlar.

By Teresa Killian Tate

Categories | The Reporter


Photos | WCU News Services

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