Winter weather and snow days
Winter weather and snow days
Ted Lysiak

While we have avoided it for most of the season, winter weather is officially upon us.  With this weather comes the ‘polarizing’ topic of Snow Days, pun intended! Each year this is a decision nobody, except for the student body, looks forward to making.  A snowy forecast, cold temps and wind chill advisories all mean a sleepless night is certain. The festivities typically begin around 3am and are very different than what I remember about snow days as a child….

When I was a kid I participated in all of the rituals that would help my superintendent make that most favorable call.  I wore my pajamas backwards.  I flushed ice cubes down the toilette.  I even opened the door to the refrigerator and danced the snow-day dance….something I still watch my two boys do today.  

Calling off school is not an easy decision.  As a parent, I realize the inconvenience it causes many families with last-minute child care.  As a teacher, I know how a day off disrupts lessons that have been planned. As the superintendent, I realize the lost instructional time it causes. In the end, the call is always made in the interest of student safety.

The calling of a snow day
Is there a magic number of inches of snow needed to call school?  Is there a specific street that has to be impassable?  The answer to each of these questions is, “No”.  The driving factor when calling school off is always the safety of students.

When poor weather is forecast the transportation/maintenance supervisor and I arrive at the school at about 3am to start the process. We review our snow removal plan and I begin driving the streets of Freedom, Nelson and Garrettsville between 4:00 and 5:30 AM. We look for how passable and slippery the streets are for a school bus and if the road crews have been able to keep up with the storm.

We also start calling members of our “snow team” to get a clearer picture before we make a call. I will call the village police chief and township road crews.  They are all out on the roads early and are usually alerted of any accidents or areas that may present a challenge for our buses.

Once the district streets have been assessed we meet back at the board office to examine the weather forecast.  We look to see if the weather will be improving, maintaining or worsening as the day progresses. If the roads are impassable but the forecast is promising and trucks are working on the roads we may try to call a two-hour delay.  This will allow time for the roads to be cleared by the village and township crews.  If the roads are impassable and the forecast is poor we will likely call a snow day. Again, student safety is the driving factor when considering the cancellation of school. We will make every effort to make this decision by 6:00 AM and begin our notification procedures immediately.

The criteria for a ‘cold day’
There have been cases when the temperatures have been too cold to have school. When temperatures reach below -10 or when there are sustained wind chills of -15 or below we will call off school.  We look at the hourly forecast on multiple weather websites and use wind chill charts from the National Weather Service. If temperatures will rise during the time in which kids would be getting on the bus hours later, we may call a two-hour delay.

Important things to know
Garfield Schools transports all residential students.  If your child is typically a walker on a day with poor weather, we will pick them up if you call the bus garage at 330.527.4250.

The decision to call off afternoon and evening activities will be made and posted on the district website, Facebook and Twitter pages by noon. Often times this call involves coordinating with other districts.

Where to check for delays/closings
If you are a parent, you should make sure you have your email and any phone number on file with your child’s school. We will always send out the mass notifications (email, voice and text) first to notify families of a school closing.

We will also notify the major television (3, 5, 8, 19 and 43) and radio stations (FM: 99.5, 105.7, 98.1, 106.5, 100.7, 102.9  AM: 1100).

Finally, you can always check the district website (jagschools.org), Facebook page (facebook.com/jagschools) or Twitter feed (twitter.com/jagschools).

Makeup Days
The State has defined a minimum number of hours each school must be in session each year (910 hours for K-6 and 1,001 hours for grades 7-12).  While we exceed that number by over 15 days, our negotiated agreements state that we will make up any time missed beyond five (5) days.  These days will be added to the end of the school year.

In closing, I will never discourage students from pajama antics, ice cube tricks or special dances. While these strategies may help children sleep better knowing they have done their part, please know that the district is taking every precaution to ensure student safety on days when weather may impact their ride to school.

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me directly at the office (330.527.4336) or on my cell (216.534.7413).

Go G-Men!