Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


February 27, 2014

Snow way to plan

School districts in New Hampshire and Massachusetts have some homework to do before starting the next school year.

As winter grinds on, schools in both states are plowing through snow days at an alarming rate.

Safety must be the overriding factor when superintendents are making the call on whether to cancel classes when storms hit. And hit they have this winter. Residents and highway crews have barely been able to dig out from one snowstorm before the next looms ominously on the horizon.

It’s New England, it’s winter, it’s to be expected.

But so, too, should school officials be expected to plan ahead.

Andover did. It built five snow days into its school calendars. So did North Andover. That preparation pays off. The school years won’t have to be extended in both communities unless Mother Nature continues her unrelenting attack well into March.

Other districts aren’t so lucky — or as thoughtful.

Methuen and many others already have acknowledged the academic year will be extended later into June to make up for the days when snow kept classrooms empty.

There’s a pattern here — and not just a weather pattern. The situation districts now find themselves in is a familiar one — and it could get worse, even for those schools that did plan for inclement weather.

No one wants to be in school in late June, when the grass is green, the streets clear and the classroom air ripe from too many days trapped inside.

Making the call too far ahead of a storm is risky. If the storm doesn’t materialize, the superintendent often becomes the brunt of criticism for making a decision too quickly.

The reverse is also true. Guess what happens when that same superintendent opts to ring the bell and hold classes, only to have a storm change course or intensify? The superintendent is the target of concerned and angry parents, who would rather have let the kids sleep in than risk a ride home on slick roads.

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