Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Groundhog Day!

Weather related cancellations can be tricky. I suppose we should have approached this system with a bit more skepticism when they first started predicting the track of this storm. That was about a week ago and it was still forming up over Japan. If we only had the benefit of hindsight! Of course if that were the case it would be easy, and this weeks column wouldn't be necessary! I suspect some of the hype had to do with the fact that the caucuses were last night. By the way, did anyone find it odd the way the news fretted that caucus attendance would be impacted by this storm? They really went out of their way to confirm the fact that the snowstorm forecast for Tuesday probably wouldn't impact the caucus on Monday! Glad they cleared that up for us! Sorry, I digress...

Anyway, I was recently asked how I go about deciding whether or not we are going to delay, cancel, or dismiss classes early. I think the inquisitor assumed there was some sort of secret recipe to getting it right. The truth is, we sometimes get it wrong. For starters, we superintendents like to stick together when it comes to calling off school. It should come as no surprise that these decisions are often times made collectively! No one wants to be the lone ranger--the only one that calls off school on a 'clear blue skies' kind of day. On the other hand, no one wants to be the cowboy who decides to go ahead and risk it when every other school in the state has thrown in the towel. 

This storm was a perfect example! Last night the forecast had us in the cross hairs of 6-9 inches of snow and some models predicted up to 18! That is a definite no go for school! The phone calls among area superintendents began late in the afternoon with the inevitable 'What are you thinking for tomorrow' question. The forecast really painted a pretty dire situation so everyone was in basic agreement there would be no school on Tuesday, February 2nd. 

Now, you all know that I am typically not the first to make this decision (your children can probably confirm this with you if you ask them). I like to be deliberate in my decision making. I surmise waiting an extra hour or two will provide clarity. Last night was the Iowa caucus, so while I was pretty sure that we would end up cancelling school, I decided to wait until after the event. While I was in the caucus it seemed every school in state ended up closing for today. When that happens the decision becomes a little easier!
Typically I like to get out and drive the roads to see how bad it truly is, but we had all decided a preemptive announcement was the ideal solution based on the forecast. If we can give parents a heads up in advance that school is going to be closed it makes it easier for their planning purposes. Its not often we can make a cancellation decision this far in advance. When we do, it is more error prone because as we know the forecast can (and does) change.

The consequence of this can be a day like today. When I got to the office this morning around 7:30 I thought, huh....it's not really snowing all that bad. I'll bet we could have had school today after all. It started snowing about 45 minutes later, and it really snowed hard! I was just starting to pat myself on the back for making such a great decision....when it abruptly stopped. It hasn't really snowed since. At 2:00 it looked like this outside.

This is the view from right outside my office door. Yes, we got a fresh layer of heavy wet snow, but only about 4 inches or so. If you look off in the distance you can see that it is really quite nice outdoors about now. Then there is this view looking the other way, again right outside my office.

Well, that's where we currently are sitting. Now the focus becomes tomorrow. While the roads in town are in great shape, I haven't had a chance to drive out in the country. That comes as soon as I finish this column up for the week. 

Bottom line is this: all school related cancellations are made with the most accurate and up to date information that is available at the time. We always put the safety of our students first, and if we sometimes get it wrong, well I guess that is the way it goes. 

Gotta run now. The rural roads are calling. Late start? We'll see....

No comments:

Post a Comment