JAMESTOWN – A snowy forecast is leading to a tough decision for school’s across our area.
Officials with Jamestown Public Schools say closing school due to snow comes down to two factors: timing and the amount of snow.
“Maybe there’s no snow at all, but it’s extremely potentially dangerously cold due to high winds and low temperatures or extremely low temperatures,” says Whitaker. “The NOAA and National Weather Service put together wind chill charts, and wind chill charts give you a certain temperature and a certain wind speed and what that temperature feels like.”
Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kevin Whitaker tells us that they must account for how many kids have adequate clothing, the amount of kids walking to school, the distance they have to walk, and how long they would be walking for.
“During specific times, between 2 or 3 a.m. and 7a.m., you get 5 or 6 or 8 inches, and it’s just not physically possible to clear that much snow off of lots and sidewalks, roads and loops, and all those things in order to make it happen. So it’s not so much the amount, unless it’s a crazy amount, it’s more about the timing,” explains Whitaker.
Ultimately, the school’s goal is for students to be able to get to and from the building safely, a topic that is on the minds of many residents after complaints of sidewalks not being properly cleared for students to walk on.
Whitaker says that help from the Department of Public Works is essential to keeping kids safe as they get to school, though resources are limited and are concentrated on the school building, making it harder for plows to get to side streets.
“What we talk to kids and families about is trying to be safe in the roads if you have to be in a road, taking your time and being careful, and also trying to dress for the weather. And we do have clothing closets so if parents or kids don’t have gloves or boots or hats or a coat there’s a way for them to get that through donations from people who have been very gracious in giving these sorts of items and supplies to our schools,” says Whitaker.
While safety is on the forefront of the Superintendent’s mind, he also considers the adults who must find childcare if their child’s school is closed and they still have to work.
However, as the pandemic has taught us, children don’t always have to be physically present at school to continue learning, which is why the Superintendent must also decide if a “snow day” means students utilize virtual learning that day.
“There’s two schools of thought on this. One of them is the more you can maximize instructional time, the better. Period. Full stop,” claims Whitaker. “And another one is, don’t forget that snow days are a part of the lore of everyone’s childhood. And having a chance maybe after the blizzard has passed to go make a snowman or throw some snowballs around with your siblings or friends are childhood memories, and that’s just as important, frankly, as recess during the school day.”
The logistics of making sure every student’s technology is able to work throughout the school day can make virtual learning difficult, that’s why the Superintendent says snow days will likely be here to stay.