I recently read a communication from the superintendent of schools for my son’s high school regarding their procedures for school cancellations. It detailed all of the careful steps they follow when determining to make an early release, delayed start, or school cancellation. Their procedures begin 72 hours in advance and include receiving information from a local, well-informed, and well-known meteorologist and the National Weather Service, getting storm models 24 hours in advance that predict the timing, intensity, duration and the types of precipitation that may come with the impending weather, and communication from town road crews during the early morning hours the day of. I read this in awe and thought, “So that’s how they do it? Because that is certainly not what it looks like or sounds like when Mrs. Wilson and I are trying to determine whether or not we should have a snow day!”
For us, it goes a little bit like this….
Because of the latest and greatest technology, we usually hear about an impending storm with a few days notice. Of course, since both Mrs. Wilson and myself are Vermonters, we know that a storm predicted five days in advance can change quickly so we don’t ever get our hopes up until it gets a little closer. As the predicted inclement weather approaches, we begin to monitor it by watching local news weather reports and of course the trusty Weather Channel app. Typically, the day before the storm is about to hit we might have a few conversations with some teachers and parents about whether they think we might have a snow day. We let them know that it’s always so hard to tell, but maybe they should wear their pajamas inside out and sleep with a wooden spoon under their pillow just in case!
And then the fun begins around 5am the day of the weather event – not with consultation with area road crews, but texts. Texts between myself and Mrs. Wilson.
CW: “It’s snowing here. Not a lot of closings yet. I didn’t go to the gym.”
JN: “Me either. Just looking out the window – looks like it’s snowing here too.
Just let the dog inside and she’s covered in snow.”
CW: “Orange and Caledonia schools are starting to close.”
JN: “Why aren’t people closing? It’s snowing like crazy outside!
I’ve got 4” already on my walkway.”
CW: “Chittenden county schools are starting to close.”
JN: What site are you using?
CW: “VPR and WCAX”
JN: “I saw on FB that VTrans says not to travel this morning.”
JN: “Nothing in Lamoille County is closing yet. Are they awake?”
CW: “Hyde Park, Johnson, and Eden just closed.”
JN: “Schools down here just closed.
Julie says it’s snowing like crazy in Morrisville.We should probably close.”
CW: “Rice just closed.”
[Here’s where I start really praying Mrs. Wilson texts me back to make a decision….]
JN: Lots of school closings now. Snow is supposed to increase throughout the day.
CW: “We’re going to close.”
So you see, it’s a highly technical process that we utilize. Unfortunately, we do not have access to the same sorts of information and resources as local public schools may. Our superintendent isn’t even involved in the decision making process. It’s just us. No town road crews, no local well-known meteorologist giving us updated storm model predictions. While we don’t have all of those great resources, what we do have is 95 families traveling from all over that we must consider. Some of you only live just a few miles away from the school, but we do have families traveling from Waterbury, Cambridge, Johnson, and Montgomery. Mrs. Wilson lives in Jericho, I’m traveling from Berlin, and Mr. Close is coming all the way from Orleans. We must take all of this into consideration, because we want every one of our families to arrive safely at school. We must make the best decision for everyone involved using the limited resources that we have and we try our very best to make the most responsible decision. However, if ever, the school does not delay, cancel, or release early, and the weather in your area is not safe to travel, then we want you to make the best decision for you and your family. If it is safer for you to stay home because you can’t make it down your driveway, that is ok! Our number one priority is the safety of our students.