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How are Snow Days Determined?

It is difficult to believe we are already a month into 2018. Time surely does fly. Although, I can imagine time may seem to trudge along during the doldrums of winter. Especially this year, as we have already had four snow days and two 2-hour delays. Truly, this is a lot of time away from school and classroom instruction. I have been asked quite often regarding the process I use to declare a snow day or delay. I want to share this information with you and the impact accumulated snow days could have on our school year calendar.


I do have to say, in this day and age our local meteorologists have been doing a very good job of providing us quite a bit of advanced notice of impending storms. Often it is during those nights I will get up early (around 4am) and look outside to see what the weather is like, as well as check the thermometer to see the temperature and windchill factor. I also rely on the forecast to see what the predicted windchill factor will be around 6:30am and 7:30am, the time at which our students are waiting to get on the school bus. Although this is not a science, typically I am looking for a windchill factor of around -15ºF to close the District for the day. The last thing I want to do is put the health of our students in harm's way, whether that means standing outside waiting for the school bus or walking to school. I have to take both of those considerations into account, because I do not want any student getting frostbite.


Sometimes it is not the cold weather which  prohibits us from coming to school. Snowfall can create problems for our school buses. If the road crews have not been out to plow and salt the streets and roads early enough, this could cause us to cancel school for the day. Typically, the village area is not an issue with respect to the plowing of our streets. Our greatest issues usually are with the  back roads, which have quite a few large hills and can create dangerous conditions for our school buses to travel.  We travel the roads in the early morning to make sure the roads are safe for our school buses to travel. If they are not, then we will cancel school for the day.


There are also times when we do not necessarily need to cancel school for the day, but only delay the start of school. We do utilize a 2-hour delay in our District. The delay is used for a variety of reasons. We could delay the start of school, because the windchill factor is too high during our usual pick up times but is predicted to lower within a few hours. A delay may be used to allow extra time for the plows to clear the roads, and thus help ensure our buses can safely transport our students.


Thankfully, this is truly not a decision I make solely on my own. Throughout the early morning hours, I am texting with other Stark and Wayne County Superintendents to see how the road conditions are in their districts. I am especially concerned with the road conditions of the districts which are adjacent to Dalton and Kidron. I am also in communication with our Transportation Supervisor and our Custodial/Maintenance Supervisor to gather their input as well.


Another question I am often asked is, “What happens if we have more than five snow days?”. A few years ago the Ohio Department of Education changed the school calendar from days to hours. So, instead of a school year being 180 days, students are required to receive a certain number of hours of instruction for each class. For example, students in full-day kindergarten through Grade 6 must receive 910 hours of instruction,  and  students in Grades 7-12 are to receive 1,001 hours of instruction. However, when it comes to “snow days”, Dalton Local Schools still looks at it in terms of days. After five snow days, we make up the days of lost instruction. We do this to help ensure our students receive the instruction they need to successfully complete their classes. The missed days of instruction would be made up during our Spring Break. This is done to ensure we make up the missed instruction time before the Ohio State Assessments. There are some school districts who make up their extra days of missed school (after five snow days) at the end of the school year. However, by that time the students are “done” and they have no incentive to focus on the work, because the Ohio State Assessments have already been taken.


I hope this provides you with a little insight into how the decision to have or not have school is determined. It is not an easy decision and is truly one of the most difficult to make. Regardless of the decision I make, half of the people will not be “happy”. However, the primary focus I have when making the decision is based solely on ensuring our students’ safety.  This includes the time when the students are waiting for the bus or walking to school, as well as knowing our buses can safely transport our students.


Enjoy the remainder of our winter, and I hope we do not exceed our allotted number of five snow days.


James R. Saxer


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