HOWELL – It seems to happen a lot: The weather reports call for a terrible snowstorm. School is canceled. Then, only a little snow falls.
While most people just look at the snowfall totals as the only factor, school administrators have to look at a lot of other factors. The decision is predicated on timing and inconvenience to families, but safety is the biggest determining factor, Howell Superintendent Joseph Isola said.
“It’s never an easy decision, although it might seem that way,” he said. “They’re either safe at the bus stops or they’re not.”
While the district looks primarily at the weather report for their town, they have to look at surrounding towns as well. The staff might have a commute from areas where the weather is worse, he said.
The make-up of the district comes into the discussion as well. It’s very possible for a family to have one child attending elementary school in Howell, and one attending high school in Freehold or Colts Neck. So, if one district is closed, than it affects the others.
“Timing is a key factor,” he said. Between the initial weather reports and the start of school, roads have to be cleared and people need time to make plans. Parents with younger children need more time to make arrangements for child care. “Do we have time to be safe?”
Kids waiting at bus stops could be waiting out in the snow. Even worse, the plows could have covered up their stops, so they could be waiting in the icy streets. Add to that the darkness that comes from early morning hours and it is a very dangerous scenario.
No matter what the decision is, there will be parents upset at the response, he said. Some will be upset if school closes because they had to wrangle emergency day care or change vacation plans due to added on days to make up the 180-day year. Some will be upset if school does not close because their children will be put at risk by coming in.
In relation to winter storm Stella on March 14, the district announced a closure early the previous day, expecting a lot of snow, he said. They only got a little bit.