Letter: Snow Days

With climate change expected to increase the intensity and frequency of storms, and as a working parent, I have come to dread the sight of a snowflake icon on the weather app in my phone. It seems that every time it snows, we can expect school to close.

School being dependent on the weather is a major challenge for working parents. We have already had at least four snow days in the Haldane school district this winter and January is not even done. One thing is for sure: every winter in Cold Spring will bring snow. I hope that in the future the district will be able to find ways to safely keep school open and the buses running even when it snows, so that children can keep their classes and parents can keep their jobs. Or … perhaps we could move the 10-week summer vacation to winter instead?

Zoe Antitch, Cold Spring

We asked Haldane Superintendent Diana Bowers to respond. She wrote: “When snow is on the way, we are notified days in advance by our weather service, FleetWeather. It sends updates as the storm approaches such as start time, end time and expected accumulation. This is considered in a conference call with superintendents in the Putnam/Northern Westchester region at 4:30 a.m. on the day of the storm, after we have checked in with our directors of transportation. Locally, we receive input from Philipstown and district employees on road conditions. If the roads throughout the district, including mountain roads, are unsafe for travel, we delay or close. The safety of students is the first and foremost consideration. We also consider wind chills, dark and icy roads, travel conditions for our employees and the ability of our amazing ‘snow team’ to get the campus ready. As a mother of two, I remember the stress these days caused for my family. But there is no margin of error, so we err on the side of safety.”

17 thoughts on “Letter: Snow Days

  1. We all need to find back up child care for the expected and unexpected. I give the schools a lot of credit for making tough snow-day decisions. Thank you for keeping the kids safe! The well being of the entire School staff is important, too.

  2. The Friday before Christmas break, school was dismissed early at 11:30 a.m. for bad weather. It was cloudy with a slight drizzle. Other districts were not dismissed early. There were many other days the past three years of two-hour delays and early dismissals when the weather was not bad. Of course we want our children safe, but working parents who do not have family to help out or nannies are put in very stressful situations with all the delays and dismissals, not to mention the disruption of the children’s education. There is not a daycare in the Haldane Central School District that accepts school-age children when school is out.

  3. I believe part of living in the Northeast is accepting that schools will be closed due to inclement weather, especially in a district where transportation has to traverse treacherous roads. It is imperative that the district errs on the side of caution, and closes school when appropriate, and it is the responsibility of caregivers to understand the reality of where one lives and to have back up plans as necessary.

    Moving the 10-week break to summer is not necessarily feasible. First, the curriculum is created based on the current schedule. Would Haldane become the only district in the state that moves to a winter ‘vacation’? This would never happen. Also, you run the potential that hot summer days could cause closures and delays if classrooms could not be properly climate controlled.

  4. Transporting hundreds of students to and from school is no small task and making the call to close based on varying weather predictions and imperfect forecasts is difficult. I do not envy any superintendent having to make those decisions, since he or she will no doubt be criticized either way. I would not want to risk the safety of children walking the streets or on a bus in icy conditions and prefer that schools err on the side of caution.

  5. Don’t wait for the future. Jump in your car and drive up to the top of East Mountain Road this morning while imagining you’re driving a school bus full of kids.

  6. The letter writer asks a very good question: “In the future, will the district able to find ways to safely keep school open and the buses running even when it snows?” Unfortunately the superintendent is not answering that question. Talking about safety is important but what about finding a solution to the problem? Couldn’t we learn from our neighbors in Vermont, Maine, not to mention Canada? How do they manage? This morning I see “no school closings” in Vermont but a two-hour delay in Cold Spring. I’m sure their priority is also to keep the kids safe and that the have unpaved roads. Couldn’t the school district do some research and get organized for the future?

  7. I thank the superintendent for her response to my letter. It would be good to know what, if any, actions are being considered to improve the possibility of school being open on a snowy day in the future. Or what actions might be considered to avoid a two-hour delay on days like today where there was barely a dusting. Is it possible to get the salters out a little earlier? Should the mountain roads be paved? In response to the comment from Ed, not all of us who live in the Northeast chose to live on mountain roads. And in response to Marlene, it would be fantastic to have on-hand alternative child care at a moment’s notice, but waking up at 7 a.m. to a snow delay and having to figure out work issues as well as childcare for multiple children (in my case) within an hour and a half window is extremely difficult. For many it is cost-prohibitive. I still hold out hope that in Philipstown we will be able to find ways of getting kids to school safely on snowy and / or cold days. There are going to be lots of them. Perhaps as Astrid says we can learn from our neighbors in Maine or Vermont?

  8. If those roads are unsafe for bus travel every time it snows, maybe it’s time for a change to the district’s bus service on inclement weather days. Students living on the roads listed as unsafe for bus travel could get picked up at the nearest paved road at a designated pull-offs where they could wait safely with their parents. Wouldn’t this be a solution for everyone?

  9. Might it not be possible, at least on days of marginally inclement weather and assuming adequate staff, to maintain (at least some portion of) the schools open for those students who are able to arrive safely, on foot for example, rather than close them for all due to a certain number of others who, for whatever the particulars of the circumstances, are unable?

    • For those saying look to Maine or Vermont, they deal with the same issues. I think part of living in the a semi-rural portion of the Northeast one needs to anticipate inclement weather that affects school closings and business commutes and anticipate and adjust accordingly. The school district is not responsible for highway conditions or the clearing of roads to make them passable.

      • I think that most local families can tell the difference between snow flurries and a blizzard … and I’m pretty sure “move the 10-week summer vacation to winter” was supposed to be ironic 😉

  10. Why close schools at the mere hint of snow? These decisions are really impacting families, by using common sense (and the NOAA website) instead of panicking, a majority of the snow days and delays could have been avoided and our kids would not be deprived of an education.

  11. Today again Haldane superintendent chose to call a snow day and the only thing missing was the snow. But, yes, let’s err on the side of safety.