Students plead for snow day; how superintendents decide

  • Chico Dias, an employee of Spoleto’s on Main Street Northampton, clears the walkway Tuesday morning, Dec. 3, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sam Lee, owner of Moshi Moshi on Main Street Northampton, walks to his restaurant Tuesday morning, Dec. 3, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sam Lee, owner of Moshi Moshi on Main Street Northampton, walks to his restaurant Tuesday morning, Dec. 3, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Shelby Miner, an employee of dmg (Don Muller Gallery) on Main Street in Northampton, helps deice the sidewalk Tuesday morning. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chico Dias, an employee of Spoleto’s on Main Street in Northampton, clears the sidewalk in front of the restaurant Tuesday morning. It was the second consecutive snow day for many area schools. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/3/2019 5:13:26 PM

NORTHAMPTON — On the eve of a snowstorm, students have been known to wear their pajamas inside out or put spoons under their pillows — superstitious rituals believed by some to make a snow day happen.

These days, some students also favor a newer approach: taking to Twitter.

“Students typically start tweeting at me 12 hours in advance of the storm,” said Northampton Public Schools Superintendent John Provost, who has the final say on a snow day and said students send him tweets to “plead their case.”

“@john_provost I crashed my moms car I’m begging you to cancel I can’t go,” @arianaplante tweeted on Monday evening.

“Can we get a two hour delay at the least tomorrow mr president?” tweeted @parker95489236.

At least two students’ pleas for a snow day included the words “literally begging.”

“I slipped and broke my wrist cause it’s so snowy and Icey outside,” @ben_fowler17 tweeted at Provost on Monday night. “I don’t believe my fellow classmates and teachers should be forced to trek to school in the frozen tundra. Please sir, give us another snow day.” Fowler followed up with what appears to be a selfie of him frowning with his wrist in a cast. “Just in case you thought I was lying,” he wrote.

To make his decision, Provost considered a few factors, he said: how much snow had been removed from school grounds; how clear roads were for the commute; and reports from transportation providers, such as school buses. At 5 a.m. Tuesday, Provost announced a two-hour delay with the possibility of a full-on cancellation to be announced within the next couple of hours.

The school day was eventually canceled, and main roads were cleared by the Department of Public Works. “They actually gave us the go-ahead for a delay,” Provost said, “but our transportation provider felt like they couldn’t do it.”

‘A tough call’

Early on snowed-in mornings, when most people are still sleeping, Provost and other area superintendents are waiting to make the final call about whether to keep schools open or closed or simply to delay their start.

“It’s a tough call every single time,” said Allison LeClair, superintendent of Easthampton Public Schools, which had a two-hour delay Tuesday. “Someone is always going to be unhappy with the situation.” On a potential snow day, she’s awake at 4:30 a.m. talking with the school maintenance director and the city DPW director about the road conditions. “He was texting me all night long giving me updates,” she said of the DPW director. “Of course, it’s pitch black outside — I can’t see what’s going on out there.”

There’s a lot to weigh in making the decision, LeClair said. ​​”Child care, safety, your workers, your staff — there’s a lot of consideration to take into account.” When school is canceled or delayed, child care can be a burden for some families, and some students get meals at school that they might otherwise not get.

Michael Morris, superintendent of Amherst, Pelham, and the Amherst-Pelham Regional school districts, makes the call for his three districts. “Fortunately and unfortunately, that is me,” he said. On Tuesday morning, he was going back and forth between a delayed start and cancellation. At 5 a.m., he put a message on the district’s weather line saying there would be a delayed start and possibly a cancellation, and minutes later, he decided to go with the cancellation after hearing from DPWs in more rural areas about poor road conditions.

On snowy mornings, he said. “I’m up around 4 o’clock in the morning starting to hear from the DPW and my transportation coordinator. The challenge for me is that in Shutesbury and Leverett … there are areas where cellphones don’t work. Connecting with the DPW can take a few tries,” he said, noting that DPW staff are usually out in the field working.

Last year in Amherst, there was only one snow day “as our high school seniors let us know,” Morris said. “They are huge fans of snow days.”

That’s because, in Massachusetts, seniors don’t have to make up snow days at the end of the year. While the last day of school may be pushed back to make up for lost time, graduation does not need to be rescheduled, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The “Blizzard Bags” initiative — a program that gave students a bag of educational material to do at home on a snow day so that schools don’t need to make up the day — was canceled last month.

Last year, Easthampton had a few snow days, and LeClair also heard complaints from the senior class that there weren’t enough of them.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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