To close or not to close, that is the question.
At least that’s what school superintendents are forced to ask themselves when the temperatures drop below freezing and the proverbial white death starts falling from the sky.
Parents trust school officials to make sure their children are safe when they travel to and from school on a snow- and ice-filled winter day. But while a child’s safety always comes first, sometimes making the decision to cancel school is a tough call.
“I do make the phone call that goes out to 5,000 families and sometimes people don't realize what all goes into that,” said Shelli Wilson, associate superintendent for the Campbell County School District.
Wilson says she and others in her position are up before 3 a.m. checking weather reports and sending out staff to test road conditions firsthand.
With only five snow days per year, administrators need to make sure they're making the right call, Wilson said.
That's why Northern Kentucky school officials often collaborate with one another, even between districts, to make sure they have as much information as possible before making the executive decision to cancel classes for a full day.
“Sometimes our surrounding counties do see weather showing up before it comes our way so (they can give us a heads up),” Wilson said.
Kenton County Superintendent Terri Cox-Cruey agreed, saying she and other school administrators work together to ensure they’re making the right decision.
But if they do decide to cancel classes for the day, school officials say they do it because it’s in the best interest of the students, their parents and the school staff.
That’s something Kelly Hall supports.
“I would rather my kids be safe and all the other kids in the counties be safe than to hear about a bus sliding off the road or somebody being injured,” the Alexandria, Ky. resident said.
Hall, a mother of two school-aged children, said while she wants children to be safe, she doesn't want schools shut down unless there are no other options.
The hospital worker says it is difficult for her to leave work. Other parents are left to endure the economic pinch of having to find child care providers or take off work to stay home with their children when classes are canceled.
Some parents become frustrated when they wake up and see only a dusting of snow on the ground or clear skies after a night of snowfall, Hall said. She and other parents are left to wonder why they're children aren't in school.
Wilson said while the roads may look clear, the conditions can make traveling along often steep, winding roads dangerous. Even a little snow and cold temperatures can lead to icy, slick conditions.
“Some of those roads can be very treacherous and we will not put our students in danger,” Wilson said.
While they might not always see eye-to-eye when it comes to shutting down school, there is one thing parents and educators agree on: No one wants to shut down school midday.
Both Hall and Cox-Cruey said an early dismissal is their least desired outcome.