When the weather forecast takes a turn for the worst in the winter, parents of school-age children know what question follows:  "Will we have school tomorrow"?  Sometimes the answer to that question is an easy "no" but often there are other factors at work that make it a difficult one to determine for school administrators.

So what are those factors that go into determining whether or not to close school?

Public schools are mandated by the state to fulfill so many hours or days of education in a school year.  Every day that gets called off on account of the weather counts against this running total.  While almost all schools pad their calendar with certain number of "snow days", the reality is that each day out of school removes administrative hours from the classroom.  Locally, our public schools in the Twin Ports got into a bind last year when faced with a record-setting cold winter which forced both them into overtime in June to make up the days that they had missed.

While private and parochial schools may not be accountable to the state for their educational hours, they are accountable to their accrediting agency which certifies their school or to the parents and students themselves.  Just like the public school, time out of the classroom leaves teachers scrambling to fit all of their necessary coursework in to their plans.

In each case, the decision to call off school on account of weather is also tempered against the need for safety.  We live in a part of the country where Mother Nature often gives us life-threatening winter conditions.  Excessive snow can make school commutes unsafe and bitterly-cold temperatures can be a life or death situation.  On days like this, canceling school for safety-sake trumps the need to be in the classroom.

At the same time, many schools look to what other schools in the area are doing.  Some families find themselves sending their children to multiple school systems - and if they are not operating in lock-step with each other, that can create scheduling and planning problems.

Another factor that goes into deciding whether or not to cancel school for the day on account of weather is the precedent that it sets.  (As an example - if a school system closes because we get 5-inches of snow, that precedent is established for the rest of the winter;  In this case, parents (and students) would now look to the school to always close when 5-inches of snow arrives.  As hearty Northlanders, we all know that some 5-inch snowstorms are less treacherous than other 5-inch snow storms.)

In conclusion, deciding whether or not to close school because of the weather isn't easy.  In these cases we need to trust that the administrators in charge of our school systems are making the right choice.  And - there is always the option for parents to make their own decision to keep their kids home for the day.

Whatever decision is made, look to our website and listen to KOOL 101.7 for updated weather-related notices.

Read more about school closings here.