Canceling school due to the weather is a cooperative effort that includes information from school personnel around the county, as well as the county Division of Highways, and the National Weather Service.
Wyoming County Schools Superintendent Frank Blackwell wants the decision made no later than 5 a.m.
He prefers, however, to make the determination, if at all possible, the previous night.
“We have personnel who are on the roads just after 5 a.m., so I like to make the call before anyone gets on the road,” he explained.
While those who live on a primary route may see no need to cancel classes, Blackwell said he must also factor in the condition of secondary routes as well as temperatures, the wind, how much and how fast the snow is falling, if there is ice, as well as the conditions of school parking lots and entrance points for students and staff.
Classes may also be canceled due to extreme frigid conditions to prevent injury to students, Blackwell said.
“We don’t want students outside waiting on the bus when the temperature is in the single digits,” he said.
Blackwell noted National Weather Service professionals can also keep school officials from sending students home too early.
“They will tell us the sun will come out in an hour, or they may tell us to hold off for awhile, it is just a squall passing over the county, not a snow storm.
“I have to say they’re pretty accurate,” the superintendent said. “They may be off 30 minutes to an hour, but what they say is going to happen is usually exactly what happens.”
While overall conditions around the county may be acceptable, any bus driver may decide not to make a particular run due to bad road conditions in the area, Blackwell explained.
“The bus driver knows the route better than anyone,” he said.
Also, Blackwell emphasized, the parent is ultimately the final word.
“If a parent feels it isn’t safe for their child to travel to school due to the weather, then they have the right to keep that child home that day,” he said. “The parent can write a note and the child will be excused. That child is still going to be counted absent, but it will be an excused absence.”
While television news stations were the primary source for getting the word out about canceled classes in the past, that is no longer the case. A call center now gets the word out to both personnel and to students across the county in about 10 minutes, once Blackwell makes the decision.
“I even get one of those calls at my house,” he joked, adding it is because his number has been programmed into the call system.
“And everyone is notified in just a few minutes because the calls come from a call center,” he explained.
Such calls can also be isolated to one school if the need arises, he explained.
“Say we’re going to dismiss early at one school for some reason — maybe the weather, maybe there’s no heat, maybe there’s no water, then the parents of children at that one school, and that one school only, will get a call,” he said.