Aside from the frustrations of the frigid temperatures, icy roads, and seasonal depression that comes from lack of sun, there is one positive aspect of winter: snow days.
A snow day is an unexpected break in the stressful week of tests, projects, and no sleep. So, waking up to a television announcement or radio broadcast declaring the closing of school is a huge relief to students.
Calling a snow day is not as simple as looking at the window and seeing how much snow is on the ground. The process to make snow days and delays possible is a long one, usually taking place around 4:30 A.M.
Region 16 Superintendent, James Agostine, is given the gracious position to decide if the schools in Prospect and Beacon Falls will be in session or not.
It begins with an alarm at four o’clock in the morning. During these early hours, Agostine checks with the town road informants to find out if the roads are slippery or dry. After getting their opinions on transportation to school, the superintendent goes on a conference call with other superintendents from different school districts to see what they are doing, as well as weather meteorologists updating the superintendents on the storm situation.
Having the job of choosing snow days is a tense one.
“When a storm is scheduled to come, I don’t sleep,” explained Agostine, “I end up waking up every hour because I’m afraid I will oversleep and miss the conference call or something.”
After the conference call, Agostine is ready to make his decision. Status of the roads and powerlines are top factors in this verdict, as well as the amount of ice and the timing of the storm.
“The main thing is making sure students can get to and from school safely,” said Agostine.
In order to make it to school and back home securely, the timing of the storm is also a issue.
“The worst timing for a storm is when it is scheduled to hit at around 10 or 11 o’clock,” said Agostine, “That is right in the middle of the school day so there is always the question of going into school and leaving with an early dismissal or not going in at all.”
The job is not over after the decision is made. Agostine must then start the phone tree, a way for all teachers and administrators to know that school has been called off or delayed. After the phone tree starts going and all people involved know about the status of the school day, Agostine can finally sleep in peace.
While the snow day is a huge upside to the winter season, it has its negative for a student. This one-day vacation needs to be made up before the school closes for summer break. State law requires all public schools to be in session for 180 days. To make this possible, Region 16 will add up to five days to the school calendar at the end of the year. If the region experiences more than five snow days, the April vacation is then affected, taking days away from that week break.
The simple and unexpected day off during the winter months takes a long process in the too early hours of the morning. To students and teachers, it is a breath of fresh air, while for our superintendents, it is a night of tossing, turning, weather updates, and conference calls.