Please note: This blog post was originally written for the Salamanca Press, February 28, 2013 and I have re-posted it here.
Snow Days. Argh. On Friday, February 1, 2013, Randolph Central was open and then they called a driving ban in Randolph. What a mess. Yes, I should have closed. Here’s what goes into a decision about snow days.
Beginning early in the morning, around 5:00 am, I have text messages and phone calls from three different employees who reside in our district, one of whom is the head of our bus garage, Brian Hinman. Last Friday, I heard from all three around 5:30 am and all looked good to go. At 6:38, I received a text from one of them saying, “Whoa. Maybe we should rethink this now.” I called Brian Hinman and asked him what he thought—Brian said, “Let’s go.” Many drivers are out on the road at that time and it’s quite late to cancel. Sometimes timing is everything, by 7:15, it was quite clear that we would have been better off cancelling school.
What am I thinking about during that hour or two in the morning? Student safety, of course, first and foremost. If those three gentlemen, who’ve driven our roads, tell me it’s unsafe to transport our students then we’re closing. Plain and simple. No debate. But I also don’t want to cancel and then have the weather be fine—we have to look at the conditions just before our buses are out on the roads. Why? Because for every working parent, I know there’s a scramble to line up child care at the last minute or a sick day or personal day that has to be used. I know that local employers may run short staffed as they have employees who call in to work because they need to stay home with their kids. And frankly, I want our students here in school with us so that we can do our jobs.
Am I watching the news and the weather? Sure. But to be honest, those weathermen can get really worked up, especially if it’s a slow news day. And why don’t I cancel when our neighboring districts cancel? We are one of the largest districts in NYS geographically, 254 square miles. That means I have to consider the information from those people within the district more carefully than the fact that another district has closed. For example, Jon Peterson might close over at Cattaraugus Little Valley because his residents in North Otto are getting pounded while the sun is shining in Onoville.
We have a Randolph Facebook Page and I took my fair share of criticism for NOT cancelling that day, even after putting up my own post that said I should have cancelled. Parents were worried, I get it. Some of the criticism focused on this idea that we don’t call a snow day because we want the state aid. That’s ridiculous. We already have more school days scheduled per year than we receive state aid back on anyway—and receiving money for attendance isn’t going to influence any superintendent’s thinking.
There was also concern that it was cold enough to cancel a couple of times this year. With that I respectfully disagree. For cold, I follow the guidelines from the NY Statewide School Health Services Center, considering school closure with sustained wind chills of -25 to -40 degrees. We haven’t had that here in Randolph this year.
The strangest thing to me is that anyone would think we’re putting the safety and welfare of our students at risk deliberately. I’ve devoted my entire career to education and caring for our students, it’s not even remotely within me to be ill intended like that—nor is it for my superintendent colleagues. It’s the weather, it’s unpredictable and miserable at times–I promise you we’re doing the best we can with these decisions. Believe me, they’re harder decisions to make than I realized before I sat in this seat.