February 12

Snow day decisions start well before storm, central Maine school superintendents say

School chiefs rely on each other, plow truck drivers and meteorologist Russ Murley, a former TV weatherman who tailors his forecast for each district.

By Jesse Scardina jscardina@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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SNOW DAYS: Students board school buses Wednesday at Waterville Senior High School. They may get a break from school this Friday because a snowstorm, predicted to start Thursday afternoon, but that decision will be based on detailed forecasts sought by the superintendent.

Staff photo by David Leaming

click image to enlarge

Murley

“We usually start the communicating early in the morning, at about 4 a.m.,” Colbry said. “If it’s already snowing, we’ll make calls to the plow truck drivers and talk with the bus director. We put all the information together, and I make a call no later than 5:30 a.m.”

The decision to cancel school ultimately comes down to the superintendent, and RSU 11’s Hopkins admitted there’s no standard formula to follow.

“This is not a science,” she said. “Sometimes we make the right decisions; other times, in hindsight, you wish you made a different decision.”

Once a decision has been made, the superintendents start reaching out to the different contacts to let students, parents, guardians and staff members know about the delay or day off. Beyond calling local television and radio stations, most school districts use an automated message program that lets the people who signed up know about the cancellation quickly and conveniently.

“The most important part is we have a person on staff that runs the automated system that sends out hundreds of emails and texts and alerts in a period of 10 minutes,” said Jim Anastasio, superintendent of the Augusta School District. “We used to try and have the decision made by 5:30, but that’s too late, in my opinion.”

As for the latest snowstorm, it’s anticipated to start snowing at midday Thursday in central Maine, which is slightly different, according to Murley.

“Most storms start late at night or early in the morning. This one is different,” he said, adding that a broad area of the state eventually will be covered in up to 18 inches of snow.

“It’s going to be a sizable storm, but the information I’m trying to get across is it won’t get bad until after dark on Thursday,” Murley said. “School on Friday is the question mark.”

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239 jscardina@centralmaine.com Twitter: @jessescardina
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