If you were superintendent of schools, what would guide your snow-related school-closing decisions?

school-closings Many local schools/districts cancelled classes two hours early yesterday and have scheduled two-late starts today cancelled classes today (Northfield school-closing info here). 

I noticed some people bitching whining thoughtfully discussing this on Facebook yesterday and today. Some comments:

JP: “Why not just call a snow day right off the bat, rather than forcing everyone on the roads twice within four hours?”

HS: “I never understand why "big" schools never close right way but they have no problem closing in the middle of the day. I went to a small school and they always canceled snow early in the day. It was much safer!”

MU: “And how about just a full snow day today instead of making us bring the kids in 2 hours late in the middle of the work day when the roads still are dangerous?”

We don’t know what guides the decisions by Supt. Chris Richardson after he talks to the folks at Benjamin Bus.  But put your supe hat on. How would you go about deciding?


  1. Griff Wigley said:

    Too funny. A few minutes after blogging this, the district switches from a two-hour late start today to cancellation.

    I guess Chris reads Locally Grown. Or maybe hangs out on Facebook. 😉

    February 9, 2010
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Typo alert on the district site… closing vs. delay:

    The Northfield School District will closed today, February 9.  Click link below for details on school delay procedures.

    February 9, 2010
  3. Robbie Wigley said:

    I think there is this money issue in play….. they have to have the kids in school for a certain number of hours to get the $ for that day…. It could have changed but that was true when our kids were young.

    February 9, 2010
  4. Kathie Galotti said:

    I’m often publicly critical of the supe, but for this particular decision, I have a lot of sympathy for him. He does lose funding, I believe, if school doesn’t happen (and I think the operationalization of “happen” is serving lunch, in the state’s mind). So he can’t just call school at the sign of a first snowflake. On the other hand, yesterday conditions just continued to deteriorate–seems to me we got hit harder than the initial weather forecasts led at least me to believe. So it was getting downright dangerous to be on the roads by midafternoon. The original call for a 2-hour late start seemed well-justified to me as I was snowblowing the driveway with my son. I’m not sure why that decision morphed into a full-day cancellation (the roads around town seem fine), but maybe it has to do with the roads in the country?

    Anyway, I think this decision is a tough one to make, and it’s easy (and costly) to get wrong either way you go.

    February 9, 2010
  5. John S. Thomas said:

    It has much to do with the initial reports that come in from the Rural bus drivers.

    Many times they go with a late start, hoping that the great folks that operate the plows in Dakota and Rice county manage to win the war against the snow covered roads.

    They get as much information as they can, and if the roads are still unsafe for the buses and the kids, then my guess is that they call the whole thing off.

    We left town on the Northfield Metro express this morning at 6 AM, and the roads were still a little hinky (going up 47 to 52). I can only imagine what some of the rural roads looked like with the wind still blowing.

    Its a tough call. Yes, I would have liked to see a full day called before 5:30 (as I could have worked from home) but they made the call when they could and implemented.

    Most other schools in the area were showing a 2 hour delay when I woke up and checked at 4:45, so that initial call of a 2 hour delay seemed to be the play. Things changed, and they made the call to close.

    We shouldn’t arm chair quarterback this. They have a good established process in place, and it seems to work. In all things, there are going to be complaints, because you can NEVER make everyone happy.

    I am looking forward to my test alert notifications tonight. (Remember, they are testing this evening…)


    February 9, 2010
  6. Jane McWilliams said:

    Probably closing the schools is the most political decision a superintendent makes!

    Long ago, when my kids were in the schools, it was the bus drivers who had a strong voice in these decisions, and justifiably so, if you ask me. They are responsible for the safe delivery of kids to and from schools, and probably know better than anyone what the driving hazards are in weather like we’ve had this winter. I’ll bet Mr. Richardson consults with them in wrestling with his decision.

    While losing state funding is a problem, closing schools or early dismissal must put a lot of stress on families who have to adjust child care plans without much advance notice.

    As you say, Kathie, the decision is tough!

    February 9, 2010
  7. Randy Jennings said:

    If the issue is the safe transport of rural kids, is there a reason the district couldn’t cancel busing, but not call off school? It seems unfair to penalize the city kids because the rural kids can’t get into town safely.

    (Full disclosure: this question was NOT endorsed by my son, who thoroughly enjoyed his snow day. The weather was pleasant, the snow fun, and he and his friends had no trouble getting around.)

    February 9, 2010
  8. Kathie Galotti said:

    Yeah, Randy, I don’t think either of my two kids felt “penalized” by having the day off either. And they also managed to eat lunch out and visit friends across town.

    February 9, 2010
  9. john george said:

    For what it is worth, my daughter, who teaches at Minnehaha Academy, waited until about 8:45 am to leave (she usually leaves about 6:00 am in good weather). She got out as far as where 21 goes north and turned around. There were three cars in the ditch between here and that corner. She also said that there was about an inch of ice on the road. That round trip took her 40 minutes, and it is about 5 miles. To risk a bunch of buses out in the country would have been foolish, IMO.

    February 9, 2010
  10. Felicity Enders said:

    What is the cost lost for 10 snow days? It seems unreasonable to have financial interests opposing safety. Would it be permissible for the city to propose to fund up to 10 snow days per year, with such a proposal placed on the next big ballot? Can the city even help with school funding?

    On the day in question, I can attest to the lack of safety on rural roads. I took 9 south, but turned back in Dennison. Several sections hadn’t yet been touched by plows by 6:30am.

    February 11, 2010
  11. Felicity Enders said:

    Well that’s a relief! thanks.

    February 11, 2010
  12. Nancy Aamerman said:

    I was just wondering why “bitching whining” was deleted? I think we should establish a “no whining, bitching day” in Northfield. It would probably be very quiet around here. Or a “gosh, golly you’re doing a great job” day or a “Thank you for all your hard work day”…or……..

    February 12, 2010
  13. john george said:

    Hey, Nance- Now you are starting to sound like your daughter!! How radical is that? Are you trying to stir up good outcomes again? Most people here abouts only try to stir up trouble (me included)!

    February 12, 2010
  14. Griff Wigley said:

    Nancy, my crossing out of the words “bitching whining” is my way of trying to make people look bad while covering up my true intentions.

    February 13, 2010

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