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How Do Administrators Decide When to Delay/Close School?

Friday, January 12, 2018 @ 12:01 AM

Posted by Aly Delp

shutterstock_237064111CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – With winter weather bringing snow and ice to Clarion County, making decisions about school delays and cancellations isn’t an easy task for local administrators.

exploreClarion.com spoke to administrators from around the county about how they make decisions regarding delays and cancellations due to weather.

It turns out, you have to get up very early in the morning to catch these administrators in their decision-making process. Though all the administrators we spoke to said they start watching the weather the night before, several related that they make sure to be up and checking the conditions by at least 4:00 a.m.

There are a lot of variables to be considered in this decision-making process.

Superintendent Shawn Algoe of Keystone School District told us, “These decisions are generally made in conjunction with various road reports (from various elevations and locations within our school district); amount of snow fall; amount of icing; equipment reports (are plows/spreaders operating at full capacity?); building mechanics reports (are all systems operating properly); impending forecast; information from bus contractors concerning equipment; road debris (such as downed trees) after storms; temperature considerations (actual temp vs. wind chill); etc.”

Getting all of the pertinent information requires a great deal of cooperation and communication between administrators, staff, contractors, and others.

Superintendent David McDeavitt of A.C. Valley School District even attends PennDOT meetings, “I want to make sure we keep those lines of communication open,” he said, “I also check with the township supervisors, when possible.”

Administrators from different districts also discuss these decisions with one another. “There is communication with several other county superintendents based on what is occurring in their district since we share the Career Center for all the Clarion County students,” said Superintendent Jean McCleary of Union School District, “I take into account the weather for Southern Clarion County could be very different from Center Clarion County. In my six years of experience as the superintendent, I have witnessed at times a major difference in the weather south of Interstate 80 and North of I-80.”

Superintendent Steve Young of North Clarion County School District also likes to go out for a drive and check out the road conditions for himself. “I like to go out and check some of the turnarounds for myself,” he said.

Several of the other administrators also take an early morning drive to check conditions.

The afternoon forecast also plays a major role in the decision-making.

Superintendent Michael Stahlman of Clarion Area School District noted, “We also have to consider things like ‘Are we delaying into worse weather? What will it look like at dismissal time? Can students get home safe?’”

All of these issues have to be taken into consideration, and the decision must be made in time to get the word out to students, families, and even PennDOT and the township crews. First round decisions must be made by 5:30 a.m. for most Clarion County schools, and if they delay, a final decision about whether or not to close for the day must be made by 7:30 a.m.

Early dismissals due to inclement weather are yet another issue.

Superintendent Young said, “Rarely will we dismiss early. The kids (are) safe in our buildings, many parents are at work, and we can’t risk sending small kids home to no supervision.”

Several other administrators echoed his sentiments on this issue, including Superintendent McDeavitt who added, “The safety of the students is always our ultimate concern.”

Whatever decision is made, though, it seems like there are always some people unhappy with it.

Superintendent Algoe told us, “Inclement weather, delays, and cancellations are certainly one of the most challenging issues to address, namely because you are wrong no matter what decision you make. People often quip that I’m the most hated person on social media…someone told me yesterday, ‘They hate you when you delay/cancel, and they hate you when you don’t.’”

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