Who says it's a snow day?

Communication. Area superintendents say it's the key for deciding if inclement weather should shut the district down for a da
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Area superintendents say it's the key for deciding if inclement weather should shut the district down for a day.

"We're constantly in touch with area superintendents," Perkins interim superintendent Denny Rectenwald said. "Based on all that input from all those sources, we make a decision (to close school or remain open)."

Although the National Weather Service is calling for at least one more major snowstorm and many school districts are close to using up Ohio's five-day allowance, the last thing on local superintendents' minds is making up days in June.

"The safety of our drivers, safety of students and safety of employees is a paramount reason why we make decisions," Bellevue superintendent Steve Schumm said.

Berlin-Milan superintendent David Snook said with such a big decision at hand, many superintendents are second-guessed for choosing to close, delay or start school on time.

"Please know that though we may disagree on your school's closing, we are united on the issue of safety for the children involved," he said on the district's Web site. "The decision to keep (school) running carries much gravity, considering the safety of the children attending is the primary focus of those in charge."

Flipping through local news stations during the winter, sooner or later you're bound to see "Bellevue City Schools," scrolling across the screen for a delay or closing.

Superintendent Steve Schumm said the district is nestled in four counties, so its buses have a lot of ground to cover.

"We have 136 square miles," he said. "Bellevue is one of the largest school districts as far as mileage, which can easily create a problem. It also depends on what times the plows get out. One county can be completely plowed, while the other two or three are not. We can't start school on time or at all if we have a quarter or only half of our district that's drivable."

Superintendents constantly check weather reports if there's a rumor of snow, and they're ready to drive the district's roads themselves.

"We start out about 4:30 or 4:45 in the morning if we think we're going to have some sort of a problem," Schumm said. "We try to make a decision by 5:15, 5:25 in the morning and notify the news services. There's just a lot of communication over and over again."

Schumm, Snook, Rectenwald, Sandusky superintendent Bill Pahl and Danbury superintendent Martin Fanning said they usually combine forces not only with other superintendents, but the district's head mechanic or transportation coordinators to divide and cover more ground.

"We continue to drive the roads and see if they're better," Fanning said. "Sometimes we have a two-hour delay so we can get light on the roads to see what we're up against and give the salt trucks and plows a chance to get out."

A variety of factors close schools, but Rectenwald said geographical location has a lot to do with why some school districts stay open while others close.

"A lot of it depends on your physical location, your geography," he said. "Sometimes because of where you're located, you're just not hit as hard. Everyone handles their road situation a little bit different."

Aside from snow, wind chill can also close a school's doors.

"Usually, as far as a tolerance level, 25 below is kind of a threshold," Rectenwald said of wind chill. "It's amazing. For years growing up I don't ever remember not having school because it was too cold. I can't believe it was any warmer 40 years ago. With global warming, it should have been colder back then."

Pahl said in cases of extreme wind chill there's a strong possibility school will be cancelled.

"In Sandusky we have to keep in mind we're in a city school district," he said. "The city's transportation department is pretty good about clearing the roads early in the morning, so we don't really have to worry about roads being too terrible to travel. If we do close school, many students are left home alone because their parents work. Wanting to get them to school every day, to a safe place that's warm and supervised with breakfast and lunch, also has a factor in our decision."

"We weigh these matters very carefully," Rectenwald said. "We not only concern ourselves with the safety of the children. If parents feel it's not safe for their children to come to school, they don't have to send them. We try to be judicious."

Ultimately, Snook said, because each school district is special in its location and makeup, each district must make its own decision.

"The decision to cancel school is one that is made only after much consideration is made to the various data available," he said. "It is certainly not taken on a whim. It is not a decision that can be made by a standardized checklist, though we all wish it could be. The variable of each day's circumstances are so very changeable that a checklist is impossible."

School's out

Area school snow days used as of Friday

Sandusky -- 1

Perkins -- 2 (non-snow related)

Norwalk -- 3

New London -- 4

Monroeville -- N/A

Margaretta -- 4

Danbury -- 4

Vermilion -- 2

Seneca East -- 5

Port Clinton -- 4

Clyde -- 3

Berlin-Milan -- 2

Bellevue -- 5