What Makes A Snow Day: An Interview With The Chief Operations Officer

Mr. Nacho Elguero Tejera

The moment when you wake up in the morning, see a large coating of snow on the ground, and learn that school has been cancelled for the day can be incredibly exciting. Have you ever wondered what is involved behind the decision upon whether or not a school day should become a Snow Day? Jeanne Jensen, the Chief Operations Officer at the Champlain Valley School District Office, explains the requirements to call a day of school off due to the weather.

“The driving factor in our decision to call a “Snow Day” is the safety of students,” Jensen said. The district office not only has to make sure that the roads are clear for the buses to take students from and back home, but the school’s facility has to be safe as well. Jensen explained that the office in cooperation with the school faculty makes sure that the emergency exits are clear and the heat is working, among other things.

Image result for vermont snow days

Image from Vermont Public Radio

“The process starts a day before the storm when the National Weather Service starts to send out alerts about an approaching ‘event,’” the COO explained. “There are two kinds of storm events that we worry about, the kind where it snows all night and stops in the morning but has left the roads a mess, and the kind where the snow doesn’t stop in the morning.”

With the first kind, the District Office’s main worry is the road, according to Jensen. CVSD’s Transportation Director, Ken Martin, is out at 4:00 AM driving some of the roads affected by the weather and afterward the Office contacts the road crews and police departments in the five towns to gather more information.

In the second scenario, the process is similar but the priority is not only the road conditions but the forecast for the rest of the day. “We never want to be in the situation where we bring students into school but can’t get them safely home,” Jensen shared. After 5:00 AM, Jensen contacts Superintendent Pinckney with the information gathered, and she makes the final decision.

A full day off is not the only precaution used. The CVSD office also calls for half-days or delayed start days. Jensen explained that the main reason to delay the start of school is if they get a call from the Vermont State office, UVM, the Highway Department or the Vermont State Police. “Our CVSD School calendar has 179 student days; the State of Vermont requires 175 student days,” Jensen said. “There is no limit to the number of days that we can cancel school as those days may be added on to the end of the year. Sometimes if the number of snow days we’ve had causes the calendar to go a day or two into the next week after the scheduled end of school, the Superintendent may recommend that the board waive those last few days. The School Board makes the final decision,” Jensen concluded.

The next time you wake up in the morning with snow coating your window, you too can now consider the steps to the process of getting that awaited call for a Snow Day.