'Old Man Winter' Drops In On Local Schools

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

December 5, 2005

Students got an unexpected, but well anticipated free pass out of class on Monday. Municipalities look at various factors when deciding to cancel school.

School officials consider everything from weather temperature to meal nutrition, when deciding to close schools. While students in Albemarle County and Charlottesville ended with a short day, school officials started with a long night beforehand, waiting for the first sign of snowflakes as early as 4:00 a.m.

Kids in Albemarle County and Charlottesville rejoiced as their friend 'Old Man Winter' arranged for an early dismissal from school.

"We decided at 10:00 [to] err on the side of safety," said Robert Thompson, the Interim Superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools.

There's more to deciding whether or not to close schools than just saying yes, or no.

"We do know the temperature of the roads. [We] know the temperature of the outside air. We know according to the different weather pictures what time to expect the snow," added Thompson.

School officials also meet with several departments within the school system, including nutrition, so students can leave with a warm meal in their stomachs.

"This is going to be a busy day-- busy afternoon," said Tom Dudley, a parent of a Buford Middle School student.

While any day is busy enough, without having to arrange for child care, picking up kids from school can be even more hectic with snow in the mix. Tom Dudley, who is helping other parents by picking up their child in a car pool, doesn't see why kids were let out.

"I don't understand why it's being closed, but you know, it gives the kids a break. I guess [it's] better safe than sorry," said Dudley.

Though some parents agree on closing schools, and some do not, school officials are ready to deal with criticism while keeping safety paramount for everyone.

"It's not only the kids. It's also the employees and the teachers. So again, if you have to make a decision, I'd err on the side of safety," said Thompson.

Keeping safety paramount is important for school officials because the landscape in our area varies so much. Some areas have rolling hills, and others have flat terrain. It would not be fair to give one group of kids the day off, and keep another group in school.

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