Making the call: When to use a snow day

By Kelly McCarthy

February 6, 2014 Updated Feb 6, 2014 at 6:37 PM EST

(WBNG Binghamton) When winter storms hit, it often causes local towns and villages to shut down, and schools to close. There's a lot that goes into the decision for schools to use a snow day, since they only have a limited number of days to use each year.

Making the call to close school is a decision that's becoming more difficult for superintendents to make.

"The decision to close is always on, that's taken very seriously," said BOCES Superintendent Allen Buyck, "Especially now we're in the new era with a new curriculum and every hour that a student can get in the classroom is important."

Students have to be in the classroom for at least 180 days a year. If snow days interfere, schools then will have to cut down on conference days or vacations.

"If it's not safe to bring kids to school," Buyck said, "No superintendent is going to make the decision to transport them just so that they don't lose a day. They have to do what's right for the kids on the bus."

The extreme cold temperatures earlier this winter caused for two unusual weather days. Typically, it's the big winter storms that close school.

"Some of our districts have a lot of students who walk to school that certainly is a key factor," Buyck said, "And when we talk about frostbite in 15 minutes or less then we know it's time to seriously consider closing schools."

Many of the local school districts said they're in pretty good shape for the year. For example, Union-Endicott school district has already used three snow days, but they allow for up to six snow days each year.

"As long as we don't have as many cold days as we've had so far," Buyck said, "And we have additional snow days, that could become problematic."

The decision falls on the school superintendent but relies heavily on the transportation department. Each school district decides how many weather days are planned into the calendar. Typically, schools use between four to six each year.

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