By Elizabeth Goussetis
“Snow days” are a reminder that humans have not yet conquered nature.
The mystery of a sudden snowfall is why a particular snowfall did or did not merit a school closing.
Mother Nature doesn’t consult the school board when she decides to blanket a town in snow. When it does snow, a complex process is set in motion to cancel school with as little as two hours notice. Here’s a look at the making of a snow day.
The night before
Rarely is the decision to close school made the night before. In the past eight to 10 years, Reynoldsburg Schools district administrator Tricia Moore can only think of two times that has happened, and both were due to cold temperatures, not snow. But school officials are already at work preparing for the decision the night before.
Two district staff members are responsible for gathering information to help the superintendent make the final decision: the business administrator and the maintenance director. They look at weather reports, talk to other school districts, and check with the crews from the city of Reynoldsburg to find out what the road conditions are and what the plows can accomplish.
A combination of projected actual temperature and windchill factors are considered in light of how long experts say it is safe to be outside. School may be cancelled because it is too cold for students to stand outside waiting for the bus, according to Moore.
Road conditions depend on the time of the snowfall, how much and what kind of snow, ice, or slush might be on the roads. The important question is whether the school buses can travel safely at the time they need to travel, said Moore.
The deadline for the decision to close schools must be made by 5 a.m. Once the decision is made, announcements are sent to the television and radio stations, posted on the school website, emailed to all subscribers of the schools’ web newsletters, and sent by robo-call or text to everyone in the district phone system. Staff members are notified by phone trees and the announcement is posted on Twitter. Moore said the website is the first place to look if parents want to find out if school is cancelled.
“Our preference is always to be in session,” said Moore, not only for academic purposes, but because cancelling school creates problems for working parents who have to find a safe place for their children during the day.
“Also, there are some kids who, if they don’t get lunch at school, they don’t get lunch,” Moore said.
Parents always have the right to keep kids home from school if they worry about them getting there safely, Moore added.