Balancing safety and academics during inclement weather

Staff Editorial

This school year alone has seen seven school cancellations due to winter weather. The purpose of these cancellations was to ensure the safety of students and faculty. It is common knowledge that winter weather makes driving more difficult. Traction is more difficult to attain on roads coated with ice and snow, and white out conditions make it difficult to see what’s in front of you.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, 44 percent of weather-related accidents occur because of winter weather, such as snow or icy roads. About 1800 fatalities can be attributed to poor winter driving conditions. Teenagers are also the age group with the highest crash rates when driving. Bad weather and the inexperience of student drivers can make for a dangerous combination. Thus, the caution exhibited by school administrators when the forecast predicts harsh weather conditions saves lives.

The decision to cancel school because of poor weather is often a difficult one to make, especially when the forecast is uncertain. Administrators often receive criticism when they cancel school and the weather conditions are not as severe as predicted. However, the “better safe than sorry” approach is needed to guarantee the safety of those commuting to school.

Many variables are considered when a winter storm is forecasted such as the timing of the storm, the events taking place during the school day, and the number of previous cancellations.  This can make it very difficult to make the right choice, but a cautious approach is necessary. Administrators would face far more criticism if someone were to get hurt commuting to and school because of poor weather conditions than if they made the cancellation and no snow fell.

However, these cancellations result in the loss of precious instruction time. In Connecticut, schools are required by state law to have 180 days of instruction prior to June 30. Therefore, districts will often extend the school year to make up for snow days, but this decision can be unpopular, as it delays the start of summer vacation. However, there are unique ways to ensure that summer vacation starts on time and 180 days of instruction are completed.

Schools can be in session on Saturdays, or administrators can extend the school day. This way, seniors would be able to graduate on time, and students would be able to go on vacations or pursue summer activities. These strategies would also keep April vacation, a time where many families go on vacations or visit colleges, intact.

However, it is necessary to keep in mind that there is no perfect formula that will please everyone when it comes to instituting snow days and making up for lost instruction time. Compromises will be necessary. Thus, administrators should keep their options open and consider new and novel ways to address these issues. By combining different policies and having the flexibility to adjust the parameters based on the situation at hand, administrators can adequately address the many complications poor weather brings.