How The District Decides Snow Days

It’s 32 degrees outside, the roads are frozen, and there is a dusting of snow covering the ground. Students in surrounding districts get the day off and can sleep in but Springdale School District students must get up and ready for school. 

The question of why students are at school is always floating around the hallways when school is not canceled for a snow day and there is almost a smoke screen over how snow days are actually decided.

“We are constantly watching the weather channel. Usually there is a prediction of snow or an icing event. We try to determine if the snow event or the icing event is going to start in the afternoon, at three o’clock, or is it going to start at midnight, or three a.m. in the morning,” head of transportation Dana Samples said. “Those are the hardest calls for everybody, if it’s a snow or ice event that’s predicted to occur in the early morning hours, we have to get up in very early morning hours to inspect the roads.”

The administrators of Springdale School District are even in contact with meteorologists to have the most current information of the ongoing potential dangerous weather conditions. They are also in close communication with Bentonville, Rogers, and Fayetteville’s School District heads to see how the weather is progressing into each town in the county. But it is not a dead set idea that if Bentonville makes the call to close their schools for a day, Springdale will do the same.

“One year, about three years ago, we had one side of the district on the east side completely covered in snow and ice and we couldn’t get buses around. And then over in Tontitown, nothing,” deputy superintendent for personnel/support services Jared Cleveland said. 

Springdale School District is one of the largest districts in the surrounding area. With there being about 185 square miles it can be difficult to make a call to cancel the day for all 30 of its schools. 23,000 students and 3,000 employees will now be displaced from their normal routines, and that can cause more harm than good in some circumstances. 

“You kind of look like a fool because I live over in Tontitown and Jeremy White, our maintenance director, lives over on the east on a hill, and Dana Samples lives almost to Huntsville. So they are saying ‘man it’s awful over here, we can’t get buses on Blue Springs road’ and I have to say ‘well there’s nothing happening over here,” Cleveland said. “So it was a really difficult situation and you kind of just have to say ‘okay what’s the best for everyone, the best for everyone is to just cancel school and let everyone stay home, be as safe as they can, and then we’ll go to school on a day where it’s nice.”’ 

Springdale School District has also integrated AMI or alternative methods of instruction. These days allow for teaching outside of the classroom and counts towards the needed days of instruction required by the state. But Springdale district has decided to only use amu days after five consecutive days of in class instruction is canceled. 

“Doctor Rollands believes that we have the AMI plan but he thinks going to school obviously is better than maybe staying at home and doing a packet. We do have approval from the department of education to use them,” Cleveland said.

Making the call on weather to cancel school due to weather conditions is not an exact science. The decision making is different in every instance that occurs and in the end if Bentonville or another school district is getting hammered with snow, but Springdale isn’t, expect to show up to school that day. Teachers also will be excused from school but missing one day because of school causes more issues than good.

“Do I like them, I like getting out before Memorial Day and sometimes snow threatens that. I don’t hate snow days, sure I’ll take a day off but I would rather the weather be good enough to where we don’t have to worry about the roads,” teacher John Stewart said. “If we miss a day I really have to start shuffling around where to put tests and when we’re going to write essays.”

The decision calling on canceling school is a difficult task and our administrators don’t enjoy it as much as students don’t enjoy going to school on a cold day. 

“I’ll tell you, I don’t like making the call. I hate it. I hate it because I have friends and they love to give me grief about it. And of course I’ve had sons in school and all their friends would be texting ‘hey, hey is your dad going to cancel school?’,” Cleveland said “It’s hard at home and it’s a very heavy decision because you are impacting literally thousands of people.”