With the timing of Tuesday’s snow, superintendents across the state are facing a tough call when it comes to opting for an early dismissal or declaring a snow day.
“The problem for superintendents is looking into their crystal ball,” said Groton Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Graner.
He’s keeping a very close eye on the weather forecast, the Doppler radar, and has conversations with several other superintendents in the New London County area to come up with the best course of action.
The challenge with Tuesday’s storm is when the snow will start. In Groton, early dismissal begins around 12 p.m., which means the elementary school student would be on the roads until around 2:15 p.m., according to Dr. Graner.
So the question is whether students have enough time to safely get home before the snow and sleet if school is not canceled altogether.
“The number one factor obviously is children’s safety and busses are these big, huge vehicles that are actually extremely light in terms of their volume,” Graner said.
The district also has a teacher on staff who was a former meteorologist for the Navy and helps advise the district, and several other districts, during weather events.
Graner will be up at 4 a.m. to make the official call.
Since just a couple of hours can be the difference between cutting the day short or calling off school, some superintendents turn to a weather consultant for help.
Meteorologist John Bagioni, owner of Fax Alert Weather Service, spends the winter consulting with about 80 school districts statewide.
“If it’s going to start between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., 9 a.m. and noon, that makes it a complicated call and [superintendents are] going to have to decide whether they can comfortably and safety make an early decision or make an early dismissal call,” Bagioni said.
“Many will probably, I think in western Connecticut, go with cancellations. There’s some opportunity with eastern Connecticut (and) northeastern Connecticut to maybe sneak in an early dismissal day,” he added.
The biggest challenge with a forecast like Tuesday’s is when the snow will start because districts will have to make sure there’s a window for students to dismiss safely, Bagioni said.
He even holds conference calls with multiple superintendents so they can bounce ideas off of one another.
“I personally was, when I was growing up, in a bus stuck in the snow,” said Mystic mom Lynore Plouffe.
So when it comes down to it, Plouffe rather school be canceled. She’s home during the day and can help out her neighbors, too.
“They would have to take off of work,” she said.
Stay-at-home mom Natalie Zeni, of Groton, does the same for some parents.
“It’s hard for a lot of parents,” Zeni said. “Especially if they need babysitters or rearrange someone else.”
Superintendent of Region 10 Schools Alan Beitman, which serves the towns of Burlington and Harwinton, said the district has already used two of their six snow days but would not hesitate to use another if necessary.
It’s all about the safety of their 2,400 students.
He plans to make the call Monday night so parents can make plans and he can ensure seniors and juniors who drive to school are facing safe conditions on the roads.
“The risks are just far too great to take any chances. It’s one more day added to the end of the school year, and my parents are very supportive of us taking precautions and being conservative,” Beitman said.