Every school in the mid-state cancelled classes Wednesday after the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning and some predicted a ten-inch snow fall.
When it never materialized and only rain fell in some locations, the decision not to open school came under public scrutiny.
Cumberland Valley School District says their decision is always based on student safety.
7,800 students attend the CV School District. Each is guaranteed a ride to school by bus.
The district is 106-square miles, consisting of Interstate 81, five-lane Route 11, neighborhood streets and two lane roadways.
“This is truly one of the more difficult decisions we have to make whenever they’re calling for a possible weather event,” explained Tracy Panzer, Communications and PR Director for Cumberland Valley School District. “It ultimately comes down to safety: safety of our students, safety of our staff.”
Panzer says the weather forecast is one of the major contributing factors in deciding to close schools. With as much as 10 inches expected from this storm, it was a wise move.
“Ultimately it’s our superintendent’s decision,” Panzer admitted. “He makes the decision on the feedback he receives from PennDOT, from our transportation director, from transportation bus carriers who are familiar with the roads and the condition of the roads. And again based on the forecast of the day.”
Most often, school closing decisions are made the same day. Often the superintendent and district transportation director are out on the road as early as 3:30 in the morning to get a feel for the weather conditions.
“We try to make a decision as soon as possible,” Panzer admitted. “Our staff leave early to come in to work, knowing that our students will be boarding a bus. We need to give parents ample time to make alternate day care arrangements if they need to.”
Some things in science are for certain, such as the temperature at which water freezes. But weather forecasting is not an exact science.
And until it is, schools will close on the prediction of a winter storm, and sometimes those storms may not end up working out as planned.