Snow days: Student safety is top priority

News Tribune editorial

Snow days traditionally yield contrasting reactions. Students welcome the unanticipated leisure time and opportunity to play. Parents dread the inconvenience as they scramble to find child care.

When snowfall fails to measure up to forecast expectations, however, the decision to cancel classes invariably will be criticized. Such second-guessing is unfortunate. School administrators aren’t predisposed to call off school at the drop of snowflake. Instead, officials follow policies and procedures in choosing one of three options — to cancel school, or to run on buses on regular routes or snow routes.

The Jefferson City Public School District, for example, follows a six-step checklist.

Forecasts and physical inspection of road conditions are considered in making a timely decision that allows for ample public notification.

Central Missouri’s relatively mild winter was interrupted by a passing storm early Thursday morning.

School district officials reacted by using a snow day, a decision that has drawn a smattering of criticism.

Superintendent Brian Mitchell, who ultimately makes the call, said in advance of Monday night’s school board meeting he might review the process with the board.

Regarding the decision, he said: “You’re gauging what the weather is doing at the time and what they’re telling you the weather is going to do and what your road conditions are anticipated to be, as well.”

In short, any decision is based both on fact and forecast.

The district’s written policy cuts to the heart of the matter. It reads: “... the ultimate decision is always based on what is best for the students. Student safety is the primary concern of our school district.”

The school district historically and routinely applies that priority to its decisions, and did so again last week.

No explanation or review is needed for emphasizing student safety.

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